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Full text of "Beggar my neighbor"

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BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOFE 



* ' Die Kunst reicli zu werden, ist im Grunde niclits Anderes, 
als die Kunst sich des Eigeiithums anderer Leute mit ihreni 
guten Willen zu bemaclitigen." — Wieland. 



BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR 



A NOVEL 



E. D. GEEARD 

AUTHOR OF ' REATA : WHAT'S IN A NAME ' 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. IIL 



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 

EDINBURGH AND LONDON 

MDCCCLXXXII 



All Rights reserved 



^^3 



CONTENTS OF THE THIED VOLUME, 



PART II.— {continued.) 



CHAP. 

VIIT. 

IX. 

X. 

XI. 

XII. 

XIII. 

XIV. 

XV. 

XVI. 

XVII. 

XVIII. 

XIX. 

XX. 



DISCARDED, . 
ALL KNAVES, . 
TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR, 
PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE, 
QUEEN AND KNAVE, 
BETWEEN PARTNERS, 
"REVANCHE," 

JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS, 
HIGH PLAY, . 
A MISDEAL, . 



CARDS BETRAYED, 
WHICH CARD? 
THE LAST TRICK, 



PAGE 

o 

23 
36 

50 

68 

81 

96 

109 

123 

135 

153 

164 

175 



yi CONTENTS. 

XXI. COUNTING THE TRICKS, 1^^ 

XXII. KAZIMIR REVOKES, 201 

XXIII. HANDS AND HEARTS, 215 

XXIV. AITZIG's SCORE, . . • • • .228 



P A E T II. 

(CONTINUED.) 



BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR 



CHAPTEE VIII. 



DISCARDED. 



" Come not when I am dead 
To drop thy foolish tears upon my grave." 

—Tennyson. 



" Margin," said aunt^ Eobertine, " here is your soup." 
She said it in a whisper as mysterious as though she 
were saying to a prisoner, " Here are your chains," 
or to a paid assassin, " Here is the dagger." 

Marcin was leaning back in his chair, with his eyes 
closed, and his arms hanging limp beside him. 

He did not seem to have heard his aunt's address. 

" Marcin," she said again, reluctantly — raising her 
voice, " here is your soup." 

There was no response and no movement, 

" He is asleep," said Eobertine ; and she stole down 



4 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

the gravel walk on tiptoe, for his chair stood in the 
garden, and took the soup to the kitchen fire to be 
kept warm, holding the cup jealouvsly covered the 
whole time for fear of any indiscreet eye prying into 
its contents and discovering the nature of the com- 
pound. This falling asleep in his chair was a common 
occurrence with Marcin now. He had been more 
usually asleep than awake for weeks past; and the 
difference between his sleeping and his waking state 
had grown to be so very slight, that it was not easy to 
distinguish the two. He had given up expressing any 
wish, or apparently feeling any. Even the idea of 
getting out of bed in the morning, or into bed in the 
evening, seemed not to occur to him unless directly 
suggested. He sat in his chair from morning to night 
not reading, not speaking, not even listening to the 
talk around him ; looking every day a little paler, a 
little weaker, a little thinner, and falling asleep now 
and then for ten and twenty minutes at a time. 

On this occasion he slept longer. Robertine, peer- 
ing out of the kitchen door, saw no difference in the 
position of the sleeping Marcin. It was a warm after- 
noon, but the clouds were drifting overhead ; and 
Eobertine looked up at them apprehensively, and 
down again anxiously at her sleeping nephew. It 
was certainly going to rain ; the swallows were flying 
so low that they almost grazed Marcin's hair ; but the 



DISCARDED. 5 

swallows did not seem to disturb him in his sleep. 
The gnats were humming loudly by his ear, but 
neither did the gnats awake him. There was a dis- 
tant growl of thunder in the sky : Marcin slept on 
and heard no thunder. Not even the big drops which 
fell on his upturned face — the first drops of the storm 
— were cold enough or big enough to rouse him from 
his dreams. 

" I must wheel him in asleep," said Robertine, as 
she reached the chair and turned it rapidly towards 
the house. She wheeled it on a few paces, then all 
at once she stood still with a start, and remained thus, 
standing immovable in the middle of the pathway, 
quite forgetting the falling rain-drops. Her hand had 
touched the back of Marcin's neck, and that touch 
had made her start, for the spot was cold as ice. She 
peered down at him with a gaze of horror, then with 
an effort stretched out her hand again and touched 
his — cold also and stiff; for, gathering courage, she 
lifted it now, and it fell back heavy and rigid, and 
swung helplessly beside him. 

He was dead, and must have been dead for two 
hours at least. It could not be called a sudden death, 
this end that had come so gradually ; for he had faded 
day by day before their eyes, and yet it brought with 
it all the terror which belongs to sudden death. The 
fever had given to his constitution a shock from 



6 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

which it had never recovered. Like his mother, he 
had seemed to rally from illness only to sink under 
its after effects. 

And so it came to pass that a second time this 
summer a coffin was brought to the Wowasulka house, 
and again there was a darkened room and wax-candles 
dimly burning round a bed. But the wax-candles 
were fewer this time, and there were no blooming 
violet - wreaths, for the violets were past long ago. 
The rather meagre bunches of roses — cut by Lucyan 
from the branches where they would be least missed 
— were far from rivalling the memory of those violets. 
Even that little life had left behind it a greater blank 
than was left now. Marcin's life or Marcin's death 
made so little difference to anybody, either good or 
bad, there was no word either of praise or blame to 
be pronounced in his memory. 

The mourners watched around him in silence and 
awe, scarcely can it be said in grief. How could they 
honestly say that they wished he had lived, when the 
expression of peaceful contentment on the dead man's 
face seemed to be saying so distinctly that he was 
glad he had died ? for it was much the clearest solu- 
tion of all difficulties, and the simplest way to avoid 
all trouble, — if he could not have a quiet life, let 
him at least have a quiet death ! There was a gen- 
eral though unacknowledged feeling of relief when the 



DISCARDED. 7 

day of the funeral came, and the hour of the funeral 
approached. 

" Are the screw-nails ready 1 " asked Lucyan, as 
they stood round the open coffin. " Xenia, you had 
better go away." 

The screw-nails were ready; they were produced. 
They were about to be put to their proper use, and 
Xenia was just preparing to leave the room, when 
there suddenly arose in the passage outside a strange 
and unaccountable noise. 

A woman's voice was heard in loud and vehement 
expostulation with other voices. There were en- 
treaties and threats, remonstrances and replies : there 
were stamps, and rustlings, and banging of doors, and 
every other variety of noise which, under the circum- 
stances, was possible. 

At least half-a-dozen women must be forcing their 
way in, thought the listeners in the darkened room ; 
but in the same moment the closed door flew open 
with a resounding crash, and there stood upon the 
threshold the author of the commotion, having, to 
every one's surprise, resolved herself into one woman 
alone. Upon the shrouded room and the black-clothed 
spectators this woman burst like a substantial flash 
of lightning. Her scarlet petticoat seemed to flame 
brighter than the candles, her cheeks were flushed to 
as brilliant a red ; she was panting, she was covered 



8 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

with dust from head to foot, aud her shawl had been 
half torn off her shoulders in the struggle of forcing 
her passage. 

" Where is he ? " she panted, standing still on the 
threshold, and staring before her into the darkened 
room, for the glare of daylight was still in her eyes. 
" Where is he ? " she said louder, as no one gave her 
an answer. Then turning towards the bed, and see- 
ing that there lay nothing but a few crushed rose- 
heads, she shuddered with such violence that the 
whole room seemed to shudder with her. " Ah, he is 
there ! " She had caught sight of the open coffin ; and 
with a spring forward, and a shriek which rent the 
ears of the bystanders, she flung herself on her knees 
beside it, clutching at Marcin's cold hand, and over- 
turning two candlesticks in the action. The neces- 
sity of stamping out the burning candles was the first 
thing which brought the stupefied spectators back to 
their senses. The whole incident had been so sudden 
and so rapid, that as yet they had only stood and 
stared in bewilderment. Was it possible that, after 
all, that useless life had left a blank behind it, greater 
than they could guess ? 

" Marcin ! " cried the sobbing woman on her knees — 
" Marcin ! why was I not sent for ? Why was I not 
told ? Why did I not know ? You would not have 
died if I had been with you ! Oh, it is unjust, cruel ! 



DISCARDED. 9 

You were not meant to die. They let you go, because 
they did not care to keep you ; but I — I want you 
back again. Oh, Marcin ! " 

She was rocking her body from side to side, as she 
uttered her wild complaints ; groaning and beating her 
breast, and covering the hand she held with resound- 
ing kisses, until it seemed as though she would drag 
the corpse out of the coffin. 

" This will not do," said Lucyan, sternly ; " this can- 
not possibly go on." 

" A painful and distressing occurrence," said Eober- 
tine, with gloomy indignation. 

" But who is she ? " asked Xenia, trembling in the 
background. 

The shock touched every one present as disagreeable 
— the dead man himself seemed to resent this violent 
disturbance of his repose. 

" Leave me in peace ! " the look on his face appeared 
to say. 

Lucyan had stepped up to the woman already and 
touched her on the shoulder. " You must leave this," 
he said, coldly. " The cofhn is to be closed." 

" Leave him ! Do you know who I am ? " 

"Yes." For she had raised her face, as she put 
the fierce question ; and Lucyan knew her to be the 
apothecary's daughter. 

" And you imagine that I shall leave him ? " 



10 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" I insist that you shall leave him." 

" Force me if you cau ! " She sprang to her feet and 
stood in an attitude of defence, looking quite capable 
of flying at Lucyan and grappling with him. " You 
have no right to forbid me anything ; you were only 
his brother, and I " 

" Enough of this," said Lucyan, with some vivacity ; 
"we cannot have these sort of — delicate explanations 
here. If you have anything to say " 

" I have something to say." 

" Come with me then." He took her by the arm and 
drew her across the room towards another door. The 
door opened and closed behind the two, and they 
were alone together. 

Janina sank on to a chair and sat there, facing 
Lucyan, and panting for breath. And Lucyan stood 
opposite to her, gazing at her flushed face, and reflect- 
ing that his brother Marcin had shown rather good 
taste while he lived. Janina's cheeks were flaming 
still, and the violence of her gestures had brought her 
hair down : it hung in a rough, tangled, but not by 
any means unbecoming mass, down her neck and 
back. 

Although the Marszalek had made his exit from the 
next room in what was apparently a burst of virtuous 
indignation, the burst had subsided in a most curious 
fashion as soon as the door was closed. He contem- 



DISCARDED. H 

plated the woman before him with an approvingly 
critical eye ; the eye of a connoisseur, who has grown 
practised with experience. It was with much the 
same gaze that he was accustomed to contemplate 
the pictures of pretty women which had once hung 
on the wall of his room. He had taken them down 
from the wall long ago ; for a Marszalek, and more so 
a Marszalek who is a married man, requires to make 
some sacrifices to his position, — but he kept them in 
a drawer instead, which was less convenient, though 
safer. 

" Compose yourself, my dear young lady," remarked 
Lucyan, after a minute, seeing that the young lady 
was very far from composing herself. His tone was 
not in the least stern now. 

" Composure ? Calmness ? Eesignation ? " she 
broke out, shooting off the three words with the 
suddenness of three rockets. " Don't dare to speak to 
me of any of those hateful things. Why did you let 
him die ? If I had but known that he was going to 
die, when I saw him last week ! Ah, he was so tired 
then ! he sent me away ; he said I made too much 
noise. Oh, if I only could get him back, I should 
never make any noise again — never in all my life 1 " 
and she burst, as she said it, into a remarkably noisy 
fit of tears. " I should be as quiet as a mouse," she 
sobbed, getting up from her chair and stamping 



12 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

violently about the room, in the excess of her ex- 
citement. 

" I loved him desperately," she exclaimed, through 
the thick of her stormy tears. 

" I am sure of it," said Lucyan, in a tone of soothing 
concession. 

" And he loved me desperately." 

Lucyan said that he had no doubt of it, although it 
was rather difficult to imagine Marcin having done 
anything desperately. 

" Did he not tell you ? " she asked, standing still in 
front of him. 

" It was not Marcin's way to tell things." 

"I thought he might have told you," she said in 
disappointment ; " he had half promised on the last 
day I saw him." 

" No, he told me nothing, but " 

"But what?" 

"Well, I rather think I guessed." 

" You guessed ? " she questioned, breathlessly. 
*'What?" 

"Since she will have plain speaking," thought 
Lucyan, "let her have it." Then aloud — "That my 
brother was your lover." 

She broke into a brilliant smile through the midst 
of her tears. " Of course he was my lover ; but he was 
something else : guess — it is not difficult." 



DISCARDED, 13 

Lucy an shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, 
as much as to say that he could not guess that riddle. 

'' My husband ! " she burst out triumphantly. " He 
was my husband : I was Marcin's wife." 

The listener smiled and remained silent. 

" You did not guess that, did you ? " 

"No, I did not." 

" And we were married four years ; have I not kept 
the secret well ? " 

"Most marvellously well." 

" It was very hard work to hold my tongue," she 
went on, while the glow of childish exultation dried 
up the tears on her cheek. " I made Marcin call me 
by my real name every time he came to see me, and 
I signed myself by it over and over again in my 
Prayer-book, but I tore the page out and burnt it. I 
was ready to burst out with it every time I met any 
member of the family. If I had not given Marcin a 
solemn promise to keep it secret, I should not have 
been able to see the carriage pass with your wife in 
it without calling out aloud, ' I am Madame Bielinska 
as well as you ! ' " and Janina, carried away by the 
thought of the triumph which that would have been, 
actually burst out laughing, while the tears were still 
on her cheek. 

" Will you not drink a glass of water, my dear Panna 
Wronska ? " asked Lucyan, pouring out a tumblerful. 



U BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and holding it towards her ; " your nerves are a little 
overstrained, I fancy." 

" Pani Bielinska," she corrected him, still laughing 
hysterically, as she put out her hand towards the 
water. 

He was silent ; and looking up impatiently for his 
answer, their eyes met full. The tumbler crashed to 
the ground, and with a shriek she flew towards him. 

" You do not believe me ! " she cried. " I see you 
do not believe that I was married ! " 

" Pray be calm." 

" Do you' believe that I was married?" she panted, 
with flaming eyes. 

" I am not a child," said Lucyan, quietly. 

" You are a monster, then." 

" Indeed I am not. I quite agree with you in 
the main ; you are perfectly right to keep to your 
assertion." 

" It is not an assertion ; it is a fact." 

'' No woman is bound to give anything but the best 
account of herself," went on Lucyan, disregarding her 
interruption. " It may amuse you to call yourself 
Madame Bielinska, but" — with a shrugs" you can 
scarcely expect other people to do so." 

" I not only expect, I shall insist on it," said Janina, 
with a sudden dignity, which took him by surprise. 
" I was your brother's wife, and I am his widow." 



DISCARDED. 15 

" You have no claim," answered Lucyan, quickly, 
for her manner had struck him strangely. To do him 
justice, up to this moment Lucyan had not believed 
her story, taking for granted that her mind was un- 
hinged by grief. He had always looked upon his 
brother Marcin as a fool, but he did not think that 
Marcin could have been quite fool enough for this. 
Now, however, the sudden assurance of Janina's tone 
impressed him as genuine ; he was too keen a judge 
of human nature not to see that she was speaking the 
truth ; but, at the same time, he was too excellent a 
tactician not to see that his own interest lay in keeping 
up the disbelief. If Marcin had married her, so much 
the worse for her ; he had no right to marry an apo- 
thecary's daughter, and the apothecary's daughter had 
no right to marry him ; she must suffer for her folly. 
Therefore he answered quickly, " You have no claim." 

" I shall get my rights," said Janina ; for the word 
" claim " had aroused her practical instinct ; and the 
practical instinct in her was so strong, that floods of 
tears had not sufficed to drown it. 

" What do you mean by rights ? " 

" The name first, the money afterwards," said Janina, 
bluntly. 

" Marcin left all his money to me," was Lucyan's 
answer. 

" He did not ; he made no will." 



16 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" He left it me by word of mouth." 

" Who says it ? " 

" I do." 

" And there is nothing but your word for it ? " 

" There is no one's word against it. Do you propose 
to put up your word against mine ? " sneered Lucyan. 

" Of course I do ; a widow's rights are better than a 
brother's." 

'' Strange," said Lucyan, with another sneer, " that 
you should come out with this wonderful story the 
moment that Marcin is beyond contradicting it." 

" Contradicting it ! He was to have told it you 
himself, if he had lived another week. This is how 
it was : That time, four years ago, when I promised 
Marcin to keep the secret, I made him give me an- 
other promise in exchange. If ever we had," — she 
hesitated for a moment, hanging her head and colour- 
ing — then looking up straight again, she went on 
boldly : " If ever we had the hope of a child, then 
he would declare the marriage ; do you under- 
stand ? " 

Lucyan slightly inclined his head to show that he 
understood, but there was no sign on his face to show 
that he believed. 

" Well," faltered Janina, " I have had to wait a lon^ 
time ; but — but my child — our child will be born this 
autumn." 



DISCAEDED. 17 

" Unfortunate ! " muttered Lucy an to himself, but 
Janina did not hear him. 

"You believe me now?" she pleaded, in a softened 
tone. " You believe that my child will be a Bielinski ? " 

Lucyan evaded her eye ; turning away, he shrugged 
his shoulders in silence. 

" Why do you not answer ? " 

''Why do you force me to give you unpleasant 
answers ? " 

"Ah, you do not believe? You will not accept 
me ? " she cried, with a return of her excitement. 
"You shall be forced to do so all the same." 

"I don't think so," said Lucyan. 

" I shall prove it." 

" How ? " 

" Why, by the marriage register, of course ; we were 
married in the Tarajow church." 

She had scarcely said the words when there shot 
into her eyes a look of panic. A sudden terrible 
thought had struck her, and the same thought had 
struck Lucyan in the same moment; but to him it 
was not terrible. 

"The Tarajow church is burnt down," they both 
said in the same breath, and they stood looking at 
each other in silence, measuring each other with their 
eyes. Lucyan was far too well trained to make a 
vulgar display of the relief and the triumph which 

VOL. III. B 



18 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

that thought had brought him, but one flash of exulta- 
tion he could not suppress, and Janina saw that flash 
in his eyes. 

" But there are other things/' she cried wildly ; 
" there is the priest who married us." 

" Is that the priest who went mad two years ago ? " 
asked Lucyan, calmly. 

" Yes, yes — but " She began to tremble, feeling 

the ground slipping from under her feet. Up to this 
moment, with all her excitement and indignation, she 
had not really been alarmed ; she had not really 
thought otherwise but that he should be forced in 
time to bow to the truth of her story. Now only 
did she begin to tremble. 

" And," went on Lucyan, " I suppose you have no 
one but your father to support this — excuse me — 
ridiculous story of a marriage?" 

" My father ! My father knew nothing of it. I 
kept it even from him ; but there must be something 
else ; there must be a way " 

" Of course there is a way. If you imagine that you 
have any rights, and if you happen to have any money 
to spend on a lawsuit — it must be plenty of money, 
mind — try that way by all means." 

Lucyan was smiling again by this time ; for from 
the moment that he heard of a Eussian church, the 
last shade of apprehension had vanished. He knew 



DISCARDED. 19 

well that, from the slovenliness of such a ceremony, 
there need be no fear of witnesses, nor of legal 
attestations. 

" I have no money — none at all ! " cried Janina, all 
her short-lived dignity gone, and bursting into miser- 
able tears as she saw each support, at which in turn 
she wildly grasped, crumbling under her hand. She 
would not give up yet. It was impossible that this 
monstrous wrong could be done. Convinced as she 
was of the justice of her cause, it did not seem con- 
ceivable that others should be blind to it. She 
stormed, and sobbed, and protested, and Lucyan 
looked on without flinching, watching the bright 
crimson in her cheeks, and showing in his eyes how 
becoming he thought it; humouring her, and pro- 
fessing to soothe her ; neither agreeing nor contradict- 
ing ; goading her on to madness by his smile and by 
his gaze. 

" Pray be calm, Panna Wronska," he said at last, 
when the spectacle had begun to wear him, and he 
laid his hand on her shoulder. She flung it off vio- 
lently, gasping for breath in her despair. 

" Do not dare to call me that ! Oh, but I will force 
you to believe me ! I will swear by everything that 
you hold holy — I will swear on the crucifix." She 
glanced round as though in search of one. 

" Don't take the trouble, my dear child," said 



20 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

Lucyan, with the slightest shrug in the world ; " such 
ceremonies do not convince me." 

" Perhaps you do not believe in the crucifix ? " 

Lucyan turned away with a second edition of the 
shrug. " We are not here for discussing our religious 
principles, are we ? " 

Janina stood and stared at the man before her in 
horror ; and Lucyan returned the stare with a gaze of 
admiration which every moment grew more insolent. 
She paled before it, instead of reddening. Slowly the 
excitement began to fade from her face. 

" Ah, you are calming down," said Lucyan ; " that 
is right. It would have been a pity to spoil your 
pretty face with more tears. Don't you think so ? " 

" Yes," she said, with a sudden change of tone, 
while a stony hardness began to settle over her fea- 
tures. She drew a deep breath, setting her teeth with 
an audible click, and all the time her eyes hung full 
on Lucyan in a strained and penetrating gaze which 
he could not understand. 

" You will go home now, will you not ? We have 
nothing more to talk about." 

" And my child ? your brother's child ? " she asked, 
heavily. 

" I regret the circumstance," was Lucyan's cool 
answer. Janina did not appear to have heard him, 
for she made no movement whatever. He drew a 



DISCARDED. 21 

little nearer, encouraged by this unexpected quiet. 
" You will dry those black eyes now, won't you ? 
You are so good-looking, my dear child, that you will 
always find plenty more men to tell you so. Did no 
one ever tell you so but Marcin ? " He laughed. 

" No one," said Janina, slowly, uttering the words 
with evident difficulty ; but she did not dry her eyes ; 
she had not moved them yet from Lucyan's face. 

Then they will tell you so soon, depend upon it." 
He put his hand down again on her shoulder, and 
this time she did not fling it off, she only shuddered 
as it touched her, and closed her eyes for a moment as 
if at a sickening sight. 

" I will go now," she said the instant after, speak- 
ing with that same strange slow thickness of utter- 
ance ; and, without further warning, she turned quite 
steadily on her heel and walked back the way she had 
come. 

Staring full and straight before her she went 
through the room, not looking at any of the people 
standing there ; not glancing even towards the coffin, 
which now was closed. With a firm hand she opened 
the door and closed it behind her. Her steps were 
heard going down the passage. There was one more 
distant bang of the door, and she was gone. 

Lucy an stood where she had left him, and combed 
his hair reflectively. " I suppose she will not drown 



22 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

herself," he said, thinking of the dull stare of her eyes. 
" It would not do ; it would look ill." He reflected 
for another moment, then laughed aloud. " Straw- 
fire," he muttered; " all straw-fire. Tell a woman she 
is pretty, and the flames go out at once." 



23 



CHAPTER IX. 



ALL KNAVES. 



"... She is his slave ; she has become 
A thing I weep to speak," . . . 

—Shelley. 



When Kazimir said to Xenia, " Lucyan shall have the 
papers," there had been suspicions in his mind ; and 
when, shortly after that — it had been before Marcin's 
death — he had brought a packet of papers to Lucyan, 
he openly taxed his brother with some questions. Lu- 
cyan was provoked, and somewhat alarmed ; he had 
not meant the papers to come to him in this way ; the 
whole thing should have been managed between Kazi- 
mir and Xenia alone ; it was to have been taken in a 
lighter, less solemn sense, — viewed from the senti- 
mental, not from the business-like point of view. 
Xenia had certainly mistaken her instructions. But 
he was equal to the occasion : there could scarcely 
be any possible occasion to which Lucyan would not 
be equal. When Kazimir questioned him about the 



24 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

,■ ' ' '« 

Propinacya, Lucyan voiTjint^fered every possible infor- 
mation. 

" Would you believe it ? " he said, with an access of 
extra-frankness ; " the Propinacyas now pay me four 
thousand florins a-year ! " 

The assertion was perfectly true. " I had to put a 
lot of money into them, of course," he added, " before 
I could get so much out, — renovations, repairs, im- 
provements, and so on." This was true also : Lucyan 
had newly whitewashed the Propinacya building with- 
in the last year or two. 

He was carelessly turning over the papers before him 
as he spoke. " Old letters," he observed, while with 
his sharp eye he marked that the paper he wanted 
was not among them. " Nothing but old letters ; I 
suppose they^can be burnt? You don't happen to 
know, do you, where you have put that paper about 
the Propinacya which I sent you once ? Looking over 
old accounts the o^mv day, I found that I had mislaid 
my own duplicate. ^I should have liked to copy it 
again." 

" I looked for it," said Kazimir, " biit I did not find 
it ; I remember now having torn it up long ago." 

" Ah ! torn up ? What an unbusiness-like habit to 
tear up business papers ! Quelle Uourderie I Are you 
quite sure you tore it up ? " 

" Quite sure." 



\ 



ALL KNAVES. 25 

" Well, it is of no consequence. I merely wanted 
to glance at it; — that Propinacya is a constant subject 
of worry." 

"It is Aitzig Majulik who holds it still?" asked 
Kazimir. 

" Yes, it is Aitzig Majulik." 

" And what — I have thought of asking you this 
before — what has become of the old Jew who used to 
hold the lease ? " 

" Naftali Taubenkubel ? I believe he is gone to 
the bad, — probably dead by this time." 

Kazimir remembered that his mother had always 
talked of Naftali Taubenkubel as of a faithful ser- 
vant. " Why was Naftali sent away ? " he asked. 

"Eeally I cannot remember," said Lucyan, with a 
yawn. " He did not suit, I suppose ; I have so much 
to think of that I cannot waste reflection upon old 
Jews. You have no notion what trouble an estate 
like this gives. Don't you think the place is won- 
derfully improved ? " 

" Most remarkably so." 

" It was very hard work, of course," said Lucyan, 
with a sigh of great humility ; " but the drudgery of 
work has always been my fate, as the brilliancy of 
soldiery has always been yours, Kazio." It did not 
often suit Lucyan to remember that he was the younger 
brother ; but in spite of all that had passed, he was 



26 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

able, at convenient moments, to play the part with an 
admirable grace and dexterity. " Work alone, I con- 
fess, would scarcely have done it; my wife's money 
went a long way. Wowasulka would have been noth- 
ing without a capital to fall back upon." 

" I suppose not," said Kazimir, doubtfully. 

" And between ourselves, my dear Kazimir," laughed 
Lucyan, " Xenia would have been nothing without the 
money either." Kazimir held his tongue, though his 
heart burnt with indignation. " If ever you marry," 
said Lucyan, " take care that your wife's charms should 
be backed up by something solid." 

Kazimir turned and left the room in silence, for 
he felt that it would not be prudent to stay ; and Lu- 
cyan, as the door closed, drew a breath of relief. He 
had long noted that remark to be made about Xenia's 
fortune having been put into the estate. There would 
be no danger now of Kazimir ever recurring to the 
rest of those fourteen thousand florins which had never 
been paid. Meanwhile Kazimir was fuming outside. 
If Lucyan chose to speak disparagingly of his wife — 
and this was not the first time that Kazimir had been 
tortured by these sneering hints — what right had he 
to rebel ? And yet he could not trust himself to stay 
in the room for fear of knocking his brother down. 
He had never got over his first repugnance to see 
those two together ; he could not see Lucyan kiss his 



ALL KNAVES. 27 

wife, or as mucli as touch her hand, without feeling 
the strong desire to rush between them. His blood 
boiled at sight of the half-contemptuous admiration 
with which Lucyan's eyes rested on her, and of the 
scientifically calculating system after which her beauty 
was displayed and traded upon ; for Lucyan guarded 
her and cared for her as for a distinct portion of his 
wealth. His wife was as much a part of his fortune 
as his Propinacya or his corn-fields. To Kazimir it 
was absolute pain to witness the position in which 
she stood ; to mark the slavish obedience, the abject 
humility, the nervous fear of the wife towards the 
husband ; to see her flurry and her bewilderment, as, 
continually stung by a sarcasm which she could not 
understand, and tantalised by sneers which she did 
not know how to explain, she trembled in helpless 
dependence. It was slavery, it was degradation, it 
was insult. The sight of it was unbearable to Kazi- 
mir, and more unbearable still was it to see the way 
in which she accepted her position. If she had re- 
belled and refused obedience, Kazimir could have 
borne his own lot better. He lived in daily expecta- 
tion of hearing that some catastrophe had taken place — 
of being told that since yesterday Xenia had flown from 
her husband's house; for he could not reconcile him- 
self to the thought that she should submit to his 
treatment for Ions. It was intolerable to conceive 



28 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

that she could accept her fate, and sink quietly down 
to the level to which Lucyan was forcing her. 

And yet by this spectacle Kazimir was tortured. 
He was forced to stand by and watch her subjection 
without the right to raise a finger in her defence ; he 
was forced to see how the weak will bent without a 
struggle before the strong one ; and he had noted the 
flattered smile which would come to her face when- 
ever her master vouchsafed her a mark of favour. 
Had her chains been of iron they might have op- 
pressed her; but her chains were of gold, and their 
jingle pleased her. It was this spectacle that, of all 
Kazimir's trials, was the greatest. The truth had 
forced itself upon his eyes, though he preferred to 
turn his eyes away. He would not even yet blame 
her for the difference and the change in her ; he would 
blame only Lucyan. But the difference was there. It 
was the difference between the fresh and the wired 
flower ; between the rosebud on the bush and the rose 
which the gardener has forced open before its time, to 
flaunt in the centre of an elaborate bouquet. Any 
one can open a rosebud ; you have only to blow upon 
it long enough and uncurl the petals with your 
fingers ; but no one can close it again. It was only 
natural that Kazimir should turn his anger towards 
the gardener who had forced open the rosebud, rather 
than towards the rosebud which had been forced. 



ALL KNAVES. 29 

Taking these sentiments into consideration, it was 
fortunate that Kazimir did not hear the words which 
passed between the husband and wife that evening. 

" The paper is torn up," said Lucy an, " so there was 
nothing to fear ; but it is no thanks to you that there 
is no harm done. As it is," he muttered, " his sus- 
picions are aroused." 

" Listen, Xenia," he said to his wife ; " the only way 
you can make up for your maladresse, is by keeping 
Kazimir in good humour. See, tlierefore, that you do 
it. Do you understand ? " 

" Yes," said Xenia, slowly ; and for a minute she 
gazed at her husband with a sort of helpless appeal in 
her eyes. Something was alarming her, something 
was oppressing her ; in a vague and undefined way 
she was conscious of the danger into which she was 
being pushed. In the midst of her faltering weakness 
she would have kept herself straight if she could, only 
she did not know how. 

" Well, is there anything you do not understand ? " 
asked Lucyan, his attention for a moment arrested by 
the look on his wife's face. 

" No, no, nothing." She shrank back at his tone ; 
and Lucyan left the room. 

He had commanded that the chestnuts should be 
got out of the ashes for him ; and it never occurred to 
him to consider whether the poor cat was getting its 



30 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUE. 

paws burnt or not. The natural consequence followed. 
Lucyan's commands were obeyed, and Kazimir was 
kept in good humour. Good humour, however, is 
scarcely the word to apply to his state of mind during 
this long, delicious, and terrible summer. He made 
no attempt to escape from the spell that was on him ; 
he never stopped to analyse or reflect. What a differ- 
ence there was between the first period of his love and 
the second ! Then it had all been joyous, peaceful, 
and sweet ; now it was feverish and fierce— a restless 
passion — one of those fires which burn all the higher 
the faster they approach consummation. 

Thus week followed upon week, and flower replaced 
flower. The roses and carnations had long ago given 
up their rights to geraniums and flowering nastur- 
tiums; and these, in their turn, were beginning to 
decamp in favour of dahlias and asters. To all out- 
ward appearance the life at Wowasulka was peaceful, 
as became a family in double mourning. That stormy 
episode at the funeral had been followed by no others; 
the straw-fire had only been a straw-fire after all, and 
had left no trace behind it. 

Janina was another obstacle on Lucyan's path 
which required to be trodden down; and if he felt 
any regret in treading her down, it was only because 
her eyes were so black and her cheeks so pink. 

" Of course she could not be a widow," had been 



ALL KNAVES. 31 

Xenia's verdict ; " she was not in mourning — she had a 
red petticoat on ; " while, in aunt Eobertine's eyes, the 
one extenuating circumstance about the case was the 
general secrecy which seemed to have enveloped it. 
There was nothing more heard about the disposal of 
Marcin's money. In answer to a casual inquiry of 
Kazimir's, Lucyan mentioned that Marcin's small for- 
tune had been left entirely to him (Lucyan). No one 
inquired into the matter or disputed the claim, and 
the Marszalek remained in peaceful possession. 

There were few visits either made or received at 
this time ; and if Aitzig Majulik often came to the 
house on business, and if the short-legged gentleman 
did occasionally get another dinner with rose-jam for 
dessert, neither of these two incidents could be re- 
garded as dissipation. It was after one of these 
dinners, and when the short-legged gentleman had 
taken his departure, that Lucyan had another conver- 
sation with his wife. What he told her on that occa- 
sion took her entirely by surprise. 

" But won't the smoke be very disagreeable ? " she 
timidly objected. 

" That smoke is worth more than gold to us," said 
Lucyan. " You will not object to having a little more 
money to spend, will you ? " 

" Oh no ; but," — a thought struck her, — " how will 
Vizia like it ? She has often told me " 



32 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" I cannot help Vizia," answered Lucyan, coldly. 
" Of course she will not like it." 

" Oh, Lucyan I Poor Yizia 1 I am so sorry for her. 
She was so kind to me always ; she took such care of 
me when I was little. Can't you do anything for her? 
Is it too late to change it now ? " 

" Much too late, even if I wanted to change it. You 
don't mean to say that you are crying, child ? Who 
knows whether we may not be able now to spend the 
carnival in Lwow ? '\ 

" Do you think so ? " asked Xenia, doubtfully, 
checking her tears for a moment to listen. 

" It would not be impossible ; and I have thought 
of an opera-box." 

Xenia dried her eyes. " Oh yes, I should like 
that ; and perhaps," with a brilliant idea, " we can 
take Yizia with us to the opera ? Don't you think so, 
Lucyan ? " 

" Perhaps, if she cares to go," said Lucyan ; and 
putting on his hat, he walked out into the garden. 

He walked right through it to the end which bor- 
dered on the forest, and having reached the bottom of 
the slope, he stood looking up at the mass of rhodo- 
dendron and Pyrus japonica bushes which he himself 
had planted there among the scattered rocks. The 
road wound up the slope, plunging right into the 
forest above ; and to the right and to the left of it, 



ALL KNAVES. 33 

Lucyan's petted bushes stood. The trees of the forest- 
edge were beginuing to turn yellow ; but Lucyan's 
rocky shrubbery, untouched by autumn, climbed the 
hillside, cold, fresh, and ever green. Lucyan contem- 
plated it with loving eyes, and with a pang of regret at 
his heart. He had placed each shrub and guided each 
ivy-trail with tender fingers ; he had clothed the tall 
double rock, which he called his " twins," in its cloak 
of soft green drapery — had crowned it himself with 
that crest of waving fern ; and now he was about to 
tear off the cloak and strike down the crest. He felt 
at this moment like a painter who is forced to destroy 
the picture he has painted. But the picture must be 
destroyed. He recognised the necessity; he allowed 
himself no more than one sigh of regret before he set 
to work to spoil his shrubbery, by transplanting each 
shrub in turn to a farther part of the garden, gradually 
unclothing the slope, and leaving it bare and rocky as 
it had been in former days. October is the usual 
month for such transplanting operations ; and the 
reasons which prompted Lucyan to undertake them so 
early in September, must have been others than those 
advocated in the pages of the ' Florist's Guide.' 

It was not of the ' Florist's Guide ' that he was 

thinking, as he worked on steadily at his shrubs ; and 

the smile which occasionally played round his lips 

had nothing to do with his rhododendrons or Pyrus 

VOL. IIL c 



34 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

japonica. He worked on late until the evening, until 
the sun had set ; and just about the time that he was 
laying down his tools, over at Tarajow the door of the 
synagogue was opening, and pouring out of it there 
was a long black stream of dark-robed figures. There 
were some of them that were clothed in the thinnest 
of woollen stuffs ; there were some that wore caps of 
costly fur, like monstrous caterpillars curled around 
their heads, and others on whose caps there remained 
but a few mangy hairs to tell of the fur that had 
been; but all were alike black, and all were solemn 
of mien, for the Szdbas was just over, and they were 
coming straight from their devotions. 

The black stream, flowing towards the Place, began 
to break up into small black pools. Knots of speakers 
were scattered about ; a nasal gabble rose and swelled 
through the air. Skinny necks craned, and sunken 
eyes glistening, betrayed the keen interest of the topic 
discussed. The vultures had pounced back upon the 
carrion which they had been forced to drop at the 
door of the house of prayer. They were pecking at it, 
worrying it, turning it over and over to see where theie 
was yet another mouthful to be gained. 

" Eighty per cent," says an old Jew, in satin as 
thick as a board, and with a beard that reaches his 
waist. " Eighty per cent — fair conditions, very fair 
conditions indeed.'' 



ALL KNAVES. 35 

" I would not have closed at any others," answered 
a second, who might have sat for a model of all the 
three patriarchs. 

" Does she guess what is coming ? " asks a third. 

" She guesses nothing ; but I have seen it comiug 
long ago. Many a time has she sent for me and said, 
' Moses Finsterbusch, I must have more money ; ' and 
I have said to myself, ' Moses Finsterbusch, open your 
money-bag and put in your hand ; for, let her waste as 
she likes, will not those fields and that forest give 
you back your money ten and twenty fold ? ' Yes ; I 
have seen it coming fast." 

" It will be as fair a case of ruin as I have seen for 
many a day ; a pretty case, a pretty case indeed ! " 

"And an exceptional case," laughs another Jew, 
softly ; " we do not often get a woman by herself. A 
brother or a husband might have spoiled much, but 
she has no brother; no, and no husband either — nor 
will she get one." 

A cackling chorus greeted the delicate joke, and 
the Jews drew to a closer circle, and fell to whispering 
amongst themselves rubbing their horny hands toge- 
ther — their vulture-eyes shining with cruel greed. 



36 



CHAPTER X. 



TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 



' No stroke, 

No keenest, deadliest shaft of adverse fate 
Can make the generous plaj^er quite despair." 

— Whitehead. 



ViziA awoke one morning and looked out of the 
window. It was so early still tliat a faint white mist 
hung over the landscape. That look out of the window, 
as the first thing on awaking, had become so much a 
habit with her as to be quite mechanical. 

To-day she rubbed her eyes and looked again ; there 
seemed to be something amissing in the landscape, — 
something gone that should have been there. It might 
be the effect of the mist, or it might be that she was 
still rather dazed with sleep. Surely between those 
two tree-stumps there used to stand a white post? 
But rubbing her eyes did no good ; and the mist was 
not in fault either, for the mist was slowly clearing 
off, and no white post stood between the tree-stumps. 



TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 37 

Neither was this post alone missing; three or fonr 
others had always been within range of the windows, 
and now they were all gone. No, not all ; Vizia could 
just catch a glimpse of the last within sight, but as 
she was looking she saw it shake and slowly fall. 

It looked like witchcraft, and it felt like a night- 
mare. There must be some mistake, and there must 
be an explanation of the mistake to be had for the 
asking. With an uneasy sense of disaster impending, 
Vizia hastily dressed and walked out. Lower and 
lower did her heart sink as she advanced. It was all 
becoming less like witchcraft, and more like a dread- 
ful waking reality. There were the very holes in the 
earth, the empty sockets whence the posts had been 
wrenched, and there, further on, stood a cart, and upon 
it a heap of those same posts ; while alongside, two 
men were engaged in uprooting another. 

" They must be taking them up because the railway 
is going to be begun at once," said Vizia, resolutely ; 
but although she repeated this conviction several 
times over, and said it aloud even to make it sound 
more plausible, yet the words did not encourage her 
as they ought. " I am sure it is that," she said to 
herself; "but I will ask those men, just to be quite 
certain." 

The men were common peasants, just capable of 
giving an intelligible answer. 



38 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

When was tlie railway to be begun ? They did not 
know ; they were not quite sure that they knew what 
a railway was. They had been told to knock in these 
posts last spring, and they had done so ; and now 
they had been told to knock them out again, and 
they were doing so equally. That was all they 
knew, and all they cared. 

Vizia returned to the house as wise as she had left 
it. But all hope of peace was gone for that day. It 
was useless to try to keep her thoughts from the white 
■posts ; it was impossible to fix them upon any of her 
household duties for more than five minutes at a time. 
She walked restlessly from one window to the other ; 
she opened books and closed them again, after having 
held them for a short time upside-down in her hand ; 
she began writing letters, and broke off half-way down 
the first page, — until at length, having tried to eat her 
dinner, and finding it impossible to get beyond the 
soup, she resolved to drive over to Wowasulka at once. 
It was hardly likely that they should know more about 
the matter than she did ; but it was a chance at least, 
and she would try it. 

When she reached Wowasulka, Xenia was not in 
the house; and going out in search of her, she caught 
sight at once of a group among the rocks of the de- 
vastated shrubbery. Lucyan was busy there with the 
last of his shrubs ; and Xenia, sitting upon a piece of 



TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 39 

flat rock, was watching him. Kazimir was there too ; 
and in the background there lingered Aitzig Majulik, 
who had come there upon some business-errand (the 
factor was frequently seen about the place in these 
days, and always upon some indefinite business-errand), 
and who was waiting until it should please the Mars- 
zalek to attend to him. 

As Vizia slowly walked along the gravel-path, she 
could see that Xenia was looking up at Kazimir, talk- 
ing to him, and smiling at him. Then it appeared 
that her eyes had fallen on Vizia, — for she ceased her 
talk, and rose from her seat. But she did not come 
down the road to meet her cousin, as Vizia had ex- 
pected: she stood for a moment irresolute, and then 
she turned in another direction, and went off by a path 
through the trees. 

*' Surely she must have seen me ! " thought Vizia, 
with a sinking" at her heart. " Can Xenia want to 
avoid me?" but she kept steadily on her way up- 
Avards, resolved to know her fate. 

"Good evening," said Kazimir, coming a step to- 
wards her, with welcome on his face. 

"Good evening," said Lucyan ; but he scarcely 
raised his eyes to her as he said it, and instantly he 
bent them on his shrubs again. 

Vizia had not meant to expose, without preparation, 
the real motive of her visit ; but there was something 



40 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

in Lucyan's look, and there were thoughts awakened 
by Xenia's unexplained flight, which made it impos- 
sible for her to make even a pretence at conventional 
talk. 

" They have taken away the white posts at Lodniki," 
she said, without either preface or preamble. 

No one gave any answer. Lucyan bent lower over 
his work ; and Kazimir, struck by her gaze, looked in- 
quiringly towards his brother. 

" They have taken away my white posts," said Vizia 
again, and more distinctly this time. 

" Keally ? " said Lucyan, forced this time, in common 
politeness, to raise his head and look at her. 

" Yes, really ; and I cannot find out anything about 
the railway." 

" I daresay you will hear about it soon ; " and Lu- 
cyan, as he said it, chopped, in a rather aimless fashion, 
at a rhododendron root. 

" Do you know anything about it ? " 

Lucyan met her steady eyes, and could answer 
nothing but "Yes." 

" Has the line been changed then ? " 

" I believe it has been changed." 

" It is to be the other line ? " 

" Yes, it is to be another line." 

"The Bruszow line?" 

" No," said Lucyan ,• " not the Bruszow line." 



TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUE. 41 

He was vainly striving at his habitual calmness. 
He had looked forward to this moment as to a mo- 
ment of enjoj^ment — a moment of satisfied revenge. 
It would be so pleasant, he had thought, to ruin the 
woman who hated him ; but it was not so pleasant to 
tell the woman that she was ruined. Somebody else 
should have told it her, not he. He wished for no 
such coarse-flavoured satisfaction. And yet he was 
obliged to look at her, and answer her : her steady 
gaze was not to be evaded. ISTow that the moment 
was come, the invincible Lucyan felt smaller than he 
had ever felt in his life before ; and the irresistible 
conviction oppressed him that he looked smaller too, — 
smaller a great deal than the woman whom he had 
helped to ruin. 

" Not the Bruszow line ? " asked Vizia. 

" No." 

" But you know which line it is ? " 

" Yes," said Lucyan, "I do ; " and he compelled 
himself to return her gaze, feeling at that moment as 
if he could almost have despised himself for not being 
able to do so quietly ; for there was no small cowardice 
about him, however much of large villany. " The Bel- 
gian Company has decided to make the line of railway 
pass here." 

'' Here ? " repeated Vizia, not quite understanding. 
" Do you mean here, through Wowasulka ? " 



42 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

"Yes, exactly" — Lucyan gave an uneasy laugh — 
" it is to pass by here, — the very spot we are stand- 
ing on." 

" I understand," said Vizia, after a short pause ; " I 
understand everything now." 

" These will have all to be cleared out of the way," 
explained Lucyan, speaking rather quickly, — " they 
are all going to be blasted ; " and he struck the rock 
beside him with the spade he held. The details of the 
matter were pleasanter to dwell upon than the matter 
itself The moment was an agreeable one to nobody, 
except perhaps Aitzig Majulik, who, creeping a little 
nearer in the heat of his interest, was gazing with all 
his eyes, and listening with all his ears. 

" Through Wowasulka ? Yes, I understand," said 
Vizia, quite calmly. " Then I am ruined." She did 
not falter or turn pale, for she felt a great deal quieter 
now than she had felt in the morning. 

''• Gott und die Welt!'' murmured Aitzig Majulik, 
" they are telling her that she is ruined, and she does 
not weep ; they are telling her that she has lost all 
her money, and she does not scream, nor tear out her 
liair, nor rend her garments. Gott und die Welt ! but 
that woman is strong." 

" I am ruined," she said again, without flinching, 
proclaiming her ruin almost as proudly as she might 
have proclaimed a triumph ; for hers was one of those 



TAKING THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 43 

natures which fear a danger only so long as it is 
uncertain, and dread only the enemy who is hidden. 

" I advised you to sell the estate," remarked Lucyan, 
but not with his usual assurance. 

Vizia gave him no answer but a look of cold con- 
tempt, and then there followed a painful pause be- 
tween them. 

Muttering something about looking for Xenia, Lu- 
cyan turned after that minute, and walked slowly 
away. It was like leaving her master of the field ; 
but he could stand the contempt of her gaze no longer. 
He positively slank away among tlie rocks, a defeated 
rather than a victorious man. His ace of trumps 
which, peeping from the pack, had appeared to be 
such a brilliantly painted card, now that it was thrown 
on the table, had shrunk to a wretched scrap of daubed 
pasteboard. 

" I am going now," said Vizia, looking round her 
with eyes that were a little dazed. " I am going 
home." She had made two steps down the path when 
some one was beside her. It was Kazimir, and he 
was looking at her with a mixture of pity and indig- 
nation on his face. During- the last minutes he had 
stood a silent and puzzled spectator, not able to guess 
at more than half the truth, but suspecting that there 
was foul play somewhere. The only thing quite clear 
to him was Yizia's ruin ; and Vizia, being ruined, 



44 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUE. 

became, of course; of much greater interest in his eyes 
than Vizia in prosperity. 

" Do not go yet," he said, as she stopped on the 
path. " Is this true, then ? You are ruined ? " 

" Yes, it is quite true." 

" And the railway would have helped you ? " 

" It would have saved me." 

They were both as unguarded as though they had 
been alone. Neither of them was collected enough to 
remember that Aitzig Majulik, hovering among the 
rocks close at hand, could hear every w^ord that they 
said. 

" And can nothing save you now ? " 

" Nothing." She leant against the stone beside her, 
and for a moment she pressed her hand tightly across 
her eyes ; for she felt strangely giddy just now, as the 
dying traveller feels in the desert when the vultures 
hover around him, hardly waiting to swoop till his 
last breath shall be drawn. After a minute she looked 
up again. " I wonder whether I can work," she said. 
" I could cut grass or draw water, I think, for I am 
very strong." She looked down at her hands. They 
were not hands to be compared to those frail morsels 
of loveliness which Xenia called her hands, but they 
were well- shaped and ivory-white. 

" It cannot be so bad as that," broke out Kazimir, 
indignant against fate, and against Lucy an, and against 



TAKING THE TEICK AND LOSING THE HONOUE. 45 

the arrangements of tlie world in general. " You can- 
not be without a home while there is your cousin's 
house." 

" My cousin's house is your brother's," said Yizia. 
"Do you see that woman over there in that potato- 
field ? What is she doing ? " 

" Digging up potatoes, I think." 

''Well, I would rather dig up potatoes just like 
that all the year round, than take refuge in your 
brother's house." 

It did not occur to either of them that potatoes are 
not to be dug up all the year round. Indeed Kazimir 
knew so very little about potatoes, that, even in a 
calmer moment, the idea would have failed to strike 
him as strange. He stood silent, in very shame that 
he could say no word in his brother's defence. He 
was forced so thoroughly to sympathise with the sen- 
timents which made her scorn the idea of living in his 
brother's house. " A few years ago it was to have 
been my house," he said aloud, half musing. " Would 
you liave refused its hospitality then ? " 

"I — I don't know," she said, with averted face. 
"Don't ask me." 

This was more cruel than the cruelest thing he had 
yet said to her. In the face of this kindness she 
began to tremble for her dignity. 

" You dislike taking help ? " 



46 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Yes ; and if your brother offered it I should not 
take it." 

" And if I offered it ? " 

" You ? " She turned her head, and for a moment 
an angry answer burnt on her lips. The idea of 
taking help from him, perhaps money from him, was 
unbearable to her pride. But then she met his look, 
and she saw that he had said it in such perfect good 
faith, and with such perfect simplicity, that her pride 
could not fail to be disarmed. Against her will she 
began to soften and to melt. " From you ? " she fal- 
tered, — " yes ; from you I might have taken it." 

" But I have nothing to give," said Kazimir, with 
rueful regret; "we are both in the same boat, are 
we not?" And then those two stood and looked 
at each other for a moment helplessly — those two 
neighbours that had been beggared in the same game 
of cards. 

" Then is there nothing that I can do for you ? " 
asked Kazimir, breaking the silence. 

" No, nothing — nothing at all." 

" Can I not take you home at least ? " 

" No, I had rather not. You can do nothing but 
leave me alone." • 

" But not now, this minute ? " 

" Yes, this minute. I — I would rather be left alone 
at once ; " and Vizia put out her hand to motion him 



TAKIxXG THE TRICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 47 

away. She could bear this terrible kindness no longer. 
" If you wish to do me a favour, you will go." 

He went away instantly, though he found her con- 
duct inexplicable. He did not turn his head once, 
but he puzzled over the shortness of her manner, and 
he puzzled still more over the look that had been in 
lier eyes when she said that from him she might have 
taken help. That look troubled him and made him 
wonder ; but he was not able quite yet to fathom its 
meaning nor sound its depth. Nothing to give ! Kazi- 
mir honestly believed that he had nothing to give. 
He did not know that he had something to give that 
would be more precious to Vizia than all the wide 
w^orld would be. 

Vizia turned and walked a few paces in the other 
direction, then, stopping abruptly, her courage seemed 
to break down ; for she began to cry. 

" That is not the railway, and not the ruin," said 
Aitzig Majulik to himself, as he cowered in the con- 
venient cleft which the two twin rocks afforded him. 
" That woman's heart is broken." 

The look in her eyes which had so puzzled Kazimir 
had not puzzled Aitzig Majulik at all. He was as 
good a judge of the symptoms of love as he was of the 
value of a left-off' coat, and he was as well able to esti- 
mate its strength as he was capable of guessing at the 
probable number of feathers on a live duck's back, 



48 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and measuring their weight by his eye alone. Per- 
sonal experience had not guided him here — for no 
orthodox Polish Jew has time to fall in love — but as 
an article of trade, the passion had come largely under 
his notice, and had proved quite as remunerative as 
rags or feathers. 

" She did not cry," reflected Aitzig, " when they told 
her that she was ruined" (if she had cried Aitzig 
would have esteemed her more) ; " she did not weep 
over her money and her fields ; and now she is crying 
because of a man's words ; and he is a man who can 
make her neither rich nor poor, who cannot even lend 
her money ? Gott und die Welt ! but that woman is 
weak !" It was a pitiful spectacle to Aitzig Majulik, 
but it was a perfectly clear one. His judgment was 
not at fault for a moment. " That woman's heart is 
broken," he said ; and issuing from his rocky hiding- 
place, he sat down on a flat stone-block, and proceeded 
to think out the matter. Every broken article which 
he had come across in his life had been made to yield 
to him some small percentage of gain. The question 
in his mind was now, how much could he make out 
of a broken heart ? 

He thought and thought, and knit his shaggy brows, 
and gnawed at his dirty fingers, and could reach no 
issue. For all his thinking, he was not able to arrive 
at any bargain to be immediately concluded. The 



TAKING THE TKICK AND LOSING THE HONOUR. 49 

broken heart must be put aside for the present. 
At home, in Aitzig Majulik's dwelling, there was a 
dark and dingy closet, with several worm-eaten shelves. 
At the bottom of that closet there stood broken chairs, 
and wheels, and bird-cages, and on the shelves were 
ranged broken bottles and boxes, stringless violins, 
and battered candlesticks. They were none of them 
forgotten, but they were all standing there waiting 
each for its opportunity in life. It was into a closet 
very like this, if less tangible, that Aitzig for the 
present stowed away Yizia's broken heart. 



VOL. III. f D 

w 

^OF ILL. , ,« 



50 



CHAPTEE XL 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 



" I am not in the giving vein to-day." 

—King Richard III. 



LucYAN had thrown away his old pocket-comb and 
bought a new one in its stead. It had been a faithful 
friend that old comb, and a close companion for years 
past. Many a brilliant idea had it combed into his 
head, and from many a puzzle and a worry had it 
combed him out. But now the ivory had turned yel- 
low, and the stem was splitting. It had grown into 
a decrepit and toothless old servant whose serving- 
days are over. To use a thing so long as it can be 
used, getting all the good out of it that can be got, 
and then to throw it aside without a pang, belonged to 
the very essence of Lucyan's nature ; and the old 
comb, which had grown yellow in his service, was 
cast ruthlessly on the dunghill, from whence Aitzig 
picked it out next day as a thing by no means to be 
despised. The new comb had severe work before it, 



PAY 0:SE TO THE KNAVE. 51 

and therefore it was that Lucyan had chosen it extra 
large and strong, of smooth thick ivory, and with a 
case into which it neatly fitted. The stress of brain- 
work indeed was so heavy at present, and had been 
so heavy lately, that its weight had much accelerated 
the old servant's collapse. 

And not to the servant only, but to the master far 
more, had the last few months been a strain and a 
trial. Throughout all the summer he had been work- 
ing his way towards one end, and he had reached his 
object now, but it had been no easy matter. It had 
required thought, it had required tact, it had required 
some money, too, before he could attain the double 
object of revenging himself on Vizia and realising the 
large sum which the railway-ground would directly 
pay him. Above all, it had required Aitzig Majulik. 
He would most certainly have failed without Aitzig 
Majulik to guide his craft through the labyrinth of 
unclean channels which alone could land him on the 
desired shore. He had succeeded in his object per- 
fectly. The neighbourhood was surprised by the an- 
nouncement that the railway-line was to pass through 
Wowasulka ; but the neighbourhood never dreamed 
that the Marszalek had played anything but a passive 
part in the matter. No suspicion of underhand in- 
triguing and plotting was afloat, ^f the Marszalek had 
looked rather thin and careworn lately, there were 



52 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

plenty of reasons for explaining that. The loss of his 
only child, the heiress to his fortune, would have 
amply explained it by itself. 

The object was gained : the shore was reached, and 
yet Lucyan looked as careworn as before. During 
that passage over those muddy and somewhat perilous 
waters, he had been forced into a closer and more inti- 
mate contact with his repulsive steersman than ever 
before. The Jev/'s grotesque peculiarities were a con- 
stant trial to Lucyan's fastidious taste, and never had 
they been pressed upon his notice as now. The grow- 
ing familiarity, the false humility, and the leering 
impertinence which it covered, had daily been be- 
coming more odious as well as more distinct. 

There was in every one of Aitzig's glances a sharp 
suspicion, ever on the watch ; for Aitzig, knowing him- 
self to be hated and feared by the master whom he 
had served too well, hated and feared that master in 
an equal degree : and reading that fear in the Jew's 
eyes under the shield of his abject humility, and 
through the midst of his half-hidden insolence, Lu- 
cyan's own fear caught fire again, and scorched him 
with its flames. 

Indeed he was not himself in those days, or ho 
would have had no difficulty in shaking off these 
morbid sensations. *The strain had told up(>n him, 
and his nerves were shaken. It is only a robust 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 53 

organisation which can bear such a strain without 
feeh'ng it, and Lucyan's organisation belonged to the 
delicate order rather than to the robust. Precisely 
those nerves which are the most keen and sensitive, 
are the most easily unstrung when once they have 
reached the limits of their endurance. Lucyan tried 
stimulants and tried exercise without having succeeded 
in regaining the tone of his constitution. His sleep 
became broken and his days restless, while his appetite 
began to forsake him entirely. So much had he got 
to hate the sight of Aitzig, that he had fallen into the 
habit of listening with a sort of nervous apprehension 
for the sound of the factor's step. The very smell of 
garlic had grown loathsome to him beyond power of 
expression. Aitzig was the one obstacle in his path 
which he had not been able to tread down, which he 
dared not tread down for fear of tripping over it and 
breaking his neck. 

But there was another reason now, and a mighty 
one for him, which made him fear the sound of Ait- 
zig's step. Whenever Aitzig entered the house now, 
whether it were morning or evening, in rain or in 
sunshine, it was always to press on one point that 
he came. 

The Belgian Company had agreed to pay down to 
Lucyan ''hirty thousand florins for the railway-ground 
and station-house which was to stand within the 



54 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

Wowasulka estate. It was a high sum; but it had 
been Aitzig Majulik's interest to have the ground 
taxed high, and he had succeeded in having it over- 
taxed. The money had been paid down, as arranged, 
in the most above-board and business-like fashion 
possible ; and the moment when the crisp bank-notes 
were handed to him by the plenipotentiary of the 
Freres Longuebourse, was to Lucyan, in the midst of 
his worries, a moment of the most exquisite enjoy- 
ment — perhaps, on the whole, the happiest moment in 
his life. The sight and sound of money had always 
had a strong influence upon him ; and it was an influ- 
ence which had grown incalculably stronger with 
years ; for gold is like a poisoned water, which never 
abates a man's thirst, but makes him thirstier the 
more he drinks of it. 

The bank-notes were clean and crisp, and Lucyan, 
when he was alone again, gazed at them in a sort of 
rapture. But then there arose the dreadful thought : 
" It is not all mine ; the fifth part has been promised 
to Aitzig Majulik." The fifth part of thirty thousand 
is six thousand. Six thousand whole florins ! Was 
it a wonder if he hated the Jew ? Was it a wonder if, 
now that the object was gained, he almost succeeded 
in persuading himself that he could have gained it 
without Aitzig's help ? Was it a wonder if he put off 
the evil moment from day to day and from week to 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 55 

week ? It would have to come some day, lie knew, 
but with all his power he would drag out the time. 
It would be such a wrench to separate those brotherly 
bank-notes ; it would be such a pity to break into the 
round sum of thirty. Twenty-four thousand sounded 
so much less complete ; there was not the same satis- 
factory neatness about it. And yet the evil day would 
come. Aitzig, if driven to extremes, had ways and 
means at his command. Fortunately, thought Lucyan, 
the term for the Propinacya lease was over. It was 
perhaps not likely, for many reasons, that Aitzig would 
have dared to refuse payment ; but yet it was as well 
that the term should be over. Perhaps also there 
hovered on Lucyan's mind a vague, indistinct, and un- 
formed hope. Aitzig was an old man — a man not 
many years short of seventy ; how, if it were decreed 
that he should be gathered presently to his fore- 
fathers ? The thirty thousand need not be separated 
then. 

These thoughts, and such as these, were in Lucyan's 
mind, as he sat at his writing-table, passing his bank- 
notes in review. He had done so dozens of times 
before, but it was a charm which ever grew ; they 
looked so well-packed and so full of meaning in their 
business-like packets of a hundred florins each ; each 
florin stared at him so expressively as he handled it. 
But he was not half through his review, when he 



56 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

paused in the counting, and raised his head to listen. 
There was a step outside — a shambling, shuffling step. 
That was the step he dreaded. Aitzig Majulik was 
coming again to press him for the money. He must 
brace himself anew for one of those scenes which had 
begun to weary and disgust him, and to which he yet 
could not quite resolve himself to put a stop. 

Quickly he swept the bank-notes aside and locked 
them away out of sight. Lucyan knew better than to 
let the Jew's eyes rest on the notes exposed; judging 
from himself, he was certain that their direct influence 
must be fatal. 

Aitzig, creeping in at the door, did not find Lucyan 
at the writing-table; he found him pacing the floor 
with a studiously slow step, passing the comb, the new 
ivory comb, through his hair. 

" What have you come for, Aitzig ? " asked Lucyan, 
standing still. 

Aitzig, closing the door and stealing forward, gave 
a hideous giggle. " The noble Pan knows what I have 
come for, but it pleases the noble Pan to pretend that 
he does not know." 

" What do you want ? " 

" If it gives any amusement to the gracious gentle- 
man to pretend that he does not know," said Aitzig, 
deaf to the question, " the gracious gentleman can of 
course do so. Who is Aitzig, that he should object ? " 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 57 

" What do you want ? " said Lucyan again. 

" I want the money," replied the Jew. 

He came to a standstill beside the door, — for his 
lifelong habit was still strong upon him. Over his 
arm there hung something black and long, that was 
folded together for greater convenience, and from 
between the folds of which a silver stripe peeped out 
here and there to catch the light. 

" Have I not forbidden you to come to the house ? " 
said Lucyan, sternly. " People are beginning to notice 
your constant presence, and to remark upon it." 

" Oh yes," sniggered Aitzig, " the noble Pan has for- 
bidden poor Aitzig to come to the house." 

" Well, and are my commands not to be obeyed ? " 

" No doubt, no doubt ; but Aitzig, being on his way 
to the synagogue, could see no harm in coming in 
here as he passed, just as he was, with his Tales over 
his arm." Aitzig, as he spoke, gently patted the 
brand-new shroud, — for it was his shroud he carried 
with him. 

" When you have anything to say to me," went on 
Lucyan, quickly, " you should wait outside to say it, — 
at the end of the garden, or in the forest — that is, out 
of sight of the windows," he added to himself. 

" The noble Pan knows that I have something to 
say to him." 

" But I have no time to hear it now, — I am in a 



5B BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

great huny, Aitzig ; T have been called to Lwow for a 
meeting ; in less than an hour I must start. I will 
hear you another day, Aitzig." 

" And another day the noble Pan will be weary from 
his journey; and the day after that I will come, and 
find the house empty, because the noble Pan is gone 
to his fields ; and thus the time passes, and Aitzig gets 
not his money." 

" You will get it in time," said Lucyan. 

" Of course I shall get it in time," answered Aitzig, 
sharply, for a moment dropping his abject tone, while 
at the bare suggestion of not getting his money, his 
sunken eyes gleamed as bright as hot coals. "Of 
course I shall get my money." 

"Yes, yes," said Lucyan, shuddering a little at that 
look of Aitzig's. " Yes, yes, — of course." 

But the gleam in Aitzig's eyes was only momentary; 
in the next minute he had sunk back already into his 
cowering attitude, and resumed his nasal whine. 

" The noble Pan is not going to be hard upon poor 
old Aitzig, who has served him so faithfully and so 
well, — who has obeyed his commands, and followed 
at his heels like a dog." 

" I have told you that you shall have your money." 

" Who but Aitzig," 'went on the factor, " could have 
done this thing ? How Aitzig has worked, and spoken, 
and pressed to get this thing done ! And now the 



PAY ONE TO THE KXAVE. 59 

thing is done, and the railway comes here, and the 
men are busy already with the ground over there by 
the forest, — the noble Pan can see them if he walks 
into the garden ; and Aitzig, who looks upon it, and 
says, ' This is my work,' — is Aitzig to linger and wait 
for his payment ? " 

" Enough, enough, Aitzig," said Lucyan, irritably ; 
" I have no time for this to-day, — I am in a hurry. I 
have not got the money at hand just now." 

" The noble Pan loves to say that he has not the 
money at hand, and he has but to stretch out his hand 
and reach it ; and the noble Pan has plenty of money 
more, — more money than the people can guess. Hi, 
hi ! He has been so clever, the gracious gentleman, 
that all others have been as fools beside him ; but not 
Aitzig Majulik, — oh no, not Aitzig Majulik ; hi, hi ! " 

" Hold your infernal chatter, dog, in God's name ! " 
said Lucyan, between his teeth. 

" Aitzig is a dog ? " whimpered the Jew ; " poor old 
Aitzisj is a doo- to be kicked and trodden. Thus does 
the noble Pan use his faithful servants. He turned off 
Naftali Taubenkllbel, to starve in his old age, and 
would he not like to turn off Aitzig Majulik ? " 

" Yes, if he dared," thought Lucyan to himself ; but 
he made no answer to the Jew. 

" His brother," chattered on Aitzig, " the gracious 
Pan Kapitan, — he would not serve his servants in that 



60 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUE. 

manner : for he is a great gentleman, an honourable 
gentleman, the Pan Kazimir. If the Pan Kazimir 
were master of Wowasulka, then " 

" Then ? ^Yhat do you mean by then ? " questioned 
Lucyan, quickly, turning rather pale as he spoke ; for 
the idea thus betrayed struck him with vague alarm. 
" If you are not satisfied with your master, why do 
you not go and look for another ? " The words were 
mere hollow mockery. They both knew well enough 
why Aitzig could not go and look for another master. 
It had long been clear to both that for Aitzig there 
could be no other master than Lucyan, and for Lucyan 
no other servant than Aitzig. 

" Mean ? " echoed the Jew, wriggling a few steps 
nearer. "Aitzig means no harm; he makes no re- 
proaches ; he wants but his money ; he asks but for 
that, — the money which is his — the fifth portion of 
the profit." 

" Hush, in heaven's name, — hush ! " said Lucyan ; 
" not so loud. You need not yell out our transaction, 
so that the whole house should hear it." 

He was not yelling, — he was whispering; but to 
Lucyan's overstrained nerves it appeared as though 
all the ears of the neighbourhood must be reached by 
that hoarse whisper. 

" The fifth portion of the profit," repeated Aitzig, in 
a lower, hoarser whisper. " The noble Pan has not 



PAY ONE TO THE KXAYE. 61 

forgotten our terms ? Ah, no ! I see that the noble 
Pan remembers well. When shall I have the money 1 " 

" When I have time to attend to the matter." 

" If the noble Pan would name a day — if he would 
say to me, ' Aitzig, your money shall be paid to you on 
Monday, or on Wednesday, or within the week 

" I cannot possibly name a day exactly. I shall be 
away at Lwow for several days now." 

" Shall it be Tuesday ? " suggested the Jew, with an 
insinuating smirk. 

" No, it cannot be." 

" Wednesday?" pressed Aitzig, in a yet softer voice. 

" I shall be busy on Wednesday." 

" Within the week ? before the end of next week ? " 

" I have bound myself to no time," answered Lu- 
cyan, writhing to escape. " You shall have it when- 
ever it is convenient, and it is not convenient to-day. 
I must have peace to-day, do you hear ? " 

" Peace ! " said Aitzig, reflectively. " Yes, I hear." 

He stood silent for a minute, with his eyes so 
completely in shadow that their expression was not 
to be read. Lucyan, taking up his hat, and blowing 
some dust from his coat-sleeve, was striving to appear 
as if he had forgotten Aitzig's presence, but not suc- 
ceeding so well as he might have wished. 

" If," began Aitzig, after that pause, " if the noble 
Pan desires peace, he can have it easily." 



62 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" How ? " asked Lucyan, with a sigh of sheer 
fatigue. 

" He has only to give to poor Aitzig a piece of 
paper — a little piece of paper — which says that he 
owes him the six thousand, florins." 

" A voucher ? " repeated Lucyan, suspiciously. 

" Yes, they call it so ; only a little piece of paper. 
And when Aitzig has that paper, the gracious Pan 
shall have peace. Aitzig will press him no more. 
The gracious Pan shall have peace for a month, a 
whole month, after Aitzig gets that paper;" and in 
the breathless eagerness of his speech, Aitzig went off 
into a fit of coughing which shook his lean frame 
from head to foot. 

Lucyan, pausing in the brushing of his coat- sleeve, 
stood and listened to the insinuating words. Peace ! 
Peace was the very thing he wanted just now; peace 
and respite from the dreaded moment. Would it not 
be worth buying at the price of that scrap of paper ? 
It was a thought to be considered at least; and in 
order to consider it the more easily, Lucyan mechan- 
ically drew out his comb-case and opened it. The 
case was empty, the comb had never been put back 
there ; it must have slipped out of his hand in the 
beginning of the interview (for the new ivory was still 
as polished as glass), and he had never noticed it. 
He cast his eyes about him hastily with a feeling of 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 63 

uneasiness, a sensation of something awanting, some- 
thing positively incomplete about himself; for such a 
thing as to have dropped his comb unnoticed had 
never before happened to him. This trifling incident 
disconcerted him almost more than anything he had 
ever experienced. He seemed to have lost his bear- 
ings and his cue as he looked about in vain for the 
comb. And all the time Aitzig was pouring out a 
gentle stream of arguments, soothing, tempting, and 
dazzling ; they entered Lucyan's soul by his ears, and 
crowded upon him more and more, until the tempta- 
tion of ridding himself of Aitzig's presence, and of 
thinking that he had rid himself of it for a whole 
long month, became too urgent to be resisted. He 
would need no longer then to listen nervously for 
that hateful step in the passage, which had grown to 
haunt him even in his dreams. 

Scarcely aware of it, he was walking towards the 
writing-table already. He sat down slowly in front of 
it, and drew out a sheet of paper. He had not exactly 
resolved to do this thing as yet, and he was not able 
at this moment to analyse the matter calmly; but 
he was strangely tempted by the idea of immediate 
peace, and mechanically he smoothed out the sheet, 
and tried the point of his pen. 

" Well ? " he said, turning his head towards Aitzig. 

Aitzig, leaving his place by the door, stole forward 



64 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

towards the table. He came along cautiously on tip- 
toe, with his eyes cast about him, almost as if he 
expected a trap laid in the carpet ; and Lucyan saw 
him come with that same suspicious look, almost as 
though he suspected a dagger under the kaftan. 

Aitzig suggested the words, dictated them almost, 
and Lucyan wrote, without once protesting, as though 
under a spell. 

It was drawing near to the hour of the synagogue ; 
and as he dictated, Aitzig took the shroud from his 
arm, and hastily shook out its folds. 

" Yes, noble Pan, that is the way, that is the way," 
he murmured, throwing the black garment about his 
shoulders in order to save time ; and as he followed 
the strokes of the signature, he hugged himself in his 
shroud. 

So entirely had Lucyan's faculties been wrapped in 
the paper before him, that he had never noticed 
Aitzig's manipulations. Looking up now from the 
last letter of his name, he started at the sight before 
him. 

There stood the gabbling Jew, with his claw-like 
hand stretched out for the paper — his eyes burning in 
a fever of impatience for the moment that he should 
clutch it — and his death-cloak hanging around him. 
It muffled him in its blue -black folds; the silver 
stripes set off the shrivelled skin, the hooked nose, 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 65 

the corkscrew curls, with a ghastly grotesqueness of 
frame. 

It was an ugly sight, and yet, strange to say, no- 
thing beautiful that he had ever seen in his life had 
appeared to Lucyan so entrancing as this picture of 
Aitzig in his shroud. It seemed to show him all at 
once and distinctly what was the thing he wanted. 
If only he could see Aitzig thus — see him wrapped for 
good and all in his shroud — how easy would every- 
thing be then ! No more danger then; no more dread. 
Those thirty thousand florins in the draw^er need not 
be parted. Who could trace, then, the step by which 
he had climbed to his present height ? The ghost of 
the past would then indeed be laid. 

With a sort of fascination he sat and gazed at 
Aitzig, and as he gazed, Aitzig broke into a second fit 
of coughing more violent than the first. Yes, he was 
an old man, to be sure. It would not be strange if 
some day — some not very distant day — he were to 
break down. 

The sight of Aitzig coughing in his shroud appeared 
only to have enhanced the impression made by Aitzig 
simply standing there in his shroud. The factor could 
not imagine what reason induced Lucyan to sit and 
gaze at him with a look so fascinated, almost so ad- 
miring. If he had looked at his beautiful young wife 
like that it might have been comprehensible ; but an 

VOL. III. E 



66 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

old Jew in a shroud ! Aitzisr did not understand it. 

o 

He stood there coughing and wondering, but never 
withdrawing the outstretched hand which waited for 
the paper, even though his whole arm shook from the 
violence of the paroxysm. 

Lucyan looked from the yellow hand up to the 
watchful eyes, and hesitated. He looked again, and 
the paper which he was holding out already, was 
unexpectedly withdrawn. Perhaps something too ex- 
pressive in the clutch of that hand had frightened 
him. Should he give it, or should he not ? He was 
not enough master of himself to answer the question 
coolly ; but he retained just enough self-command to 
check himself on the very verge of an act of rashness. 

" No, Aitzig," he said, leaning back ; " not to-day. 
Come back on Wednesday, and you shall have the 
paper. I must sleep a night over this," — he passed 
his hand over his damp brow — " and," he added to 
himself, " I must find my comb first." 

Had it not been so very near to the hour of the 
synagogue, the battle might have begun anew. But 
Aitzig had run himself too close already; and Lucyan's 
carriage was at the door. 

The paper, written and signed as it was, was pushed 
back into the desk ; and Aitzig's eyes followed it till 
it disappeared, and remained on the spot where it had 
vanished. It was a comfort to him at least to know 



PAY ONE TO THE KNAVE. 67 

that the paper was lying there with the full signature 
to it. Partial though the victory was, he must be 
content for to-day. He saw the paper put into the 
desk — he saw the desk-lid closed — he marked how the 
Marszalek's hand shook in the action — and he marked 
another small circumstance besides, which took deep 
root in his memory; and it was just then that the 
carriage came to the door for Lucyan. 

In another five minutes the carriage was bearing 
Lucyan away; and Aitzig was hurrying along the 
road towards Tarajow. 

But in the empty room, where the evening shadows 
were falling now, a spiteful imp was laughing to itself. 
The lost comb lay under the writing-table ; and as it 
peeped out cautiously from its concealment, its white 
teeth seemed to gleam through the shade in a grin of 
diabolical glee. 



68 



CHAPTEE XI L 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 



Denn was man schwarz auf weiss besitzt 
Kann man getrost nach Hause tragen." • 

—Goethe. 



Xenia had found an old wooden lamb, with half the 
paint sucked off ; and the sight of that lamb made her 
sit down where she had found it in a corner of the 
empty nursery, and begin to cry. Her thoughts had 
not been much with her dead Wandusia lately. She 
had shed many tears at first, and immediately after 
her bereavement had written a most touching letter 
to a friend at Krakow, in which she described herself 
as sitting between a cradle and an open grave ; but 
of late her thoughts had been very busy with some- 
thing else — something which she did not quite under- 
stand herself When, however, she met anything that 
reminded her of Wandusia, she always sat down and 
cried for a few minutes at a time. Nothing had so 
^vividly reminded her of Wandusia for long as this 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 69 

sucked wooden lamb ; and therefore she cried for 
several more minutes than usual. 

" I remember so well bringing it back from Lwow 
for her, and she was so pleased with it, poor darling ; 
and I had on my new mauve dress that day, with 
shaded ribbons in my hair." 

The wooden lamb looked at her so reproachfully 
that Xenia felt an impulse to do something unusual. 
She therefore went out into the garden and gathered 
a great bunch of blue asters (she knew that Lucyan 
did not like her meddling with the few remaining roses), 
and with the flowers in her hand she started for the 
churchyard near Tarajow. When she looked back upon 
this day in after-years, it was always with a certain 
surprise and unqualified admiration of her own cour- 
age. She was not used to taking walks alone ; or, 
for the matter of that, to taking walks at all. This 
walk to the churchyard was decidedly the most 
courageous act of her life. Had the influence of the 
wooden lamb not been so strong upon her, she never 
would have been capable of anything as rash, not to 
say reckless (regarded from a Polish point of view), 
as to walk without protection for half an hour along 
a country-road. If Lucyan had been at home she 
would not have dared to do this ; for Lucyan ob- 
jected to her fatiguing herself thus ; and he particu- 
larly objected to any visits to the churchyard, as the 



70 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

unavoidable result was red eyes. But Lucyan was 
away at Lwow still, and would not be back till the 
next day. 

Early in the afternoon, Xenia started with her 
bunch of asters in her hand ; and about an hour and 
a half later, she returned with only a few blue flowers 
remaining, which she had stuck into her waistband, 
for the colour happened to harmonise with the dress. 

But she was not thinking of the asters now, nor of 
her dress, nor either of Wandusia's grave. She reached 
the house almost running ; and breathless and scared 
she sank into a chair, and closed her eyes to recover 
herself. 

Never again, in all her life, she vowed with her 
returning breath, would she take a country-walk alone. 
Her first experience of the kind would certainly be her 
last. All her ardour of two hours ago was quenched 
beyond revival, and the wooden lamb was superseded 
by quite another image now ; for she had had a fright 
on the way back, and she was still trembling at the 
mere thought of it, and shedding hysterical tears. 

When the hysterical stage was passed, there fol- 
lowed a violent desire to confide her adventure to 
somebody. She was as little able as a child of keep- 
ing her troubles to herself, and quite as little able as a 
child of bearing them alone. But no possible confidant 
was at hand ; Lucyan was away, aunt Kobertine was 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 71 

out, Vizia had not been near the house for weeks. 
Surely aunt Eobertine must be returning soon ! Xenia 
did not venture to go out into the garden, for fear of 
seeing again that terrifying figure which had so scared 
her on the road, but she went to the door and peeped 
out impatiently. When she had looked out three or 
four times she grew frightened again, for she saw some 
one coming through the garden ; but in the next mo- 
ment her fears vanished. It was only Aitzig Majulik, 
whom she had grown so used to seeing that his pres- 
ence appeared quite natural at any hour of the day. 

" Is the gracious Pan returned from Lwow ? " in- 
quired Aitzig, as he approached the door. 

" No, he is not back yet," said Xenia. 

Aitzig silently rocked his head, in what was meant 
to look like dumb despair, just as if he had not before 
known what the answer would be. 

" But perhaps the gracious Pan has left directions 
with the gracious Pani," asked Aitzig, cautiously. 
" Did he not make a note of something that was to 
be given to Aitzig Majulik ? " 

"Xo, he left me no directions at all; he never 
doe.s." 

Aitzig rocked his head more violently than before, 
and began softly to wring his hands and gently to 
utter groans. 

" Is there anything the matter ? " asked Xenia, 



72 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

rather startled. It was always disagreeable to her to 
see any one suffering ; and Aitzig looked at this mo- 
ment as though he were in a fit of the most acute 
pain. She had left the doorway by this time, and 
had returned into the drawing-room, where Aitzig 
followed her, 

"Yes, there is much that is the matter," began Ait- 
zig, as noiselessly he closed the door, speaking in a 
mournful, dreary tone, like the minor chord of a barrel- 
organ — very much out of tune, — " there is much that is 
the matter. Times are bad, and poor old Aitzig has 
got to toil from morning to night to supply his wants, 
and the roads are dusty, gracious Pani, and hard to 
tread." 

"But I cannot help yon," answered Xenia, some- 
what overwhelmed by this panorama of misery un- 
rolled before her eyes. 

Aitzig had a notion that she could help him, but 
the opportunity was not quite ripe yet, so he went on 
in the same minor key. 

" And to-day I come to ask for the thing that has 
been promised me, and the noble Pan is not returned, 
and I have to go disappointed home." 

" What has been promised you ? " asked Xenia. 

" Only a little bit of paper." 

" A bit of paper ? " 

" Yes, a paper, — a business-paper, — that is all." 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 73 

" But I know nothing at all about business," said 
Xenia, honestly. 

" Ah no : why should a beautiful lady like you know 
anything of business 1 " sighed Aitzig. Of course she 
knew nothing of business ; and just because he knew 
that she knew nothing of business was the conviction 
steadily growing upon him that she had the power to 
help him. " What was the paper about, did the gra- 
cious lady ask ? " said Aitzig, drawing out his words, 
so as to gain time for thought. "What else should 
it be but about the Propinacya which gives so much 
work to poor Aitzig ? " 

The Propinacya, he had rapidly concluded, was the 
safest stalking-horse to choose. 

" Oh, about the Propinacya ! " repeated Xenia, turn- 
ing rather pale again ; for the Propinacya had played 
a prominent part in her fright of this afternoon. 
" It was about the Propinacya that that dreadful old 
man spoke to me to - day ; oh, he frightened me 
so 1 " and she sat down and began deliberately to 
tremble. 

" An old man ? " asked Aitzig, curiously. " What 
old man has dared to frighten the gracious lady ? " 

Xenia looked at the factor and hesitated. He was 
very dirty and very ragged, and he was a Jew, but 
at the same time he was a human being with ears 
to listen to her story, and a tongue to answer her, 



74 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

even if not a soul to sympathise ; and after a very 
little more fencing, she began to pour out her ad- 
venture. 

She had been on her way back from the church- 
yard, where she had put the asters on Wandusia's 
grave (save those kept for her belt), when all at once 
upon the road she had been stopped by an old man, 
an old fJew in tatters, and bent upon a stick. "Are 
you the lady of Wowasulka ? " he had asked her; and 
when she said " yes," he had stood in front of her for 
a minute, looking at her slowly all over, from the 
crown of her hat down to the heels of her boots. He 
was murmuring something into his beard which she 
could not understand ; but when his eye reached the 
line of gold bracelet on her wrist, the murmur had 
burst out into loud words. " She can wear gold ! " he 
had screamed in a transport of fury — " gold upon her 
hands, and gold on her neck, and gold in her ears ! 
'But it is bad gold, bad gold ; the lady of Wowasulka 
carries ill-gotten goods along with her. Go home, fair 
lady ; and if they ask who stopped you on the road, 
say : Naftali Taubenklibel, who served the Bielinskis 
for thirty years, and was turned off at last like a horse 
that is too old to chew the grass ; who held the Pro- 
pinacya once, and prospered, but who sank down 
slowly, slowly, slowly, from the day that it was taken 
from him. Say that his children are dead, and his 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 75 

grandchildren starving, and say that his curse shall 
follow you beyond your grave." 

All this Xenia repeated to Aitzig in a more or less 
comprehensible form, and Aitzig, listening intently, 
sagaciously nodded his head, and looked impressively 
wise. There was nothing especially startling to him 
in the occurrence itself, but he was considering whether 
the effect it had produced could not be employed so as 
to assist his plans. 

" Do you not think the poor man must have been 
mad ? " asked Xenia. " It is so dreadful to think that 
his grandchildren are starving ; but can you not tell 
him that he must not frighten me like that again ? " 

" I shall see, I shall see," said Aitzig slowly, racking 
his brain for some plausible pretext. "Now, if the 
Pan had been at home, and I could have had the 
paper " 

" Has the paper got anything to do with Naftali 
Taubenkiibel ? " asked Xenia, with a new^ interest. 

"He held the Propinacya once," ventured Aitzig, 
cautiously. 

"Ah, the Propinacya; yes, I understand." She did 
not understand at all, or rather she completely mis- 
understood ; but she knew that Naftali had once 
held the Propinacya, and that Aitzig now held it ; 
and Aitzig had told her that the paper he wanted had 
something to do with the Propinacya. She did not 



76 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

attempt to enter into the matter, but in some indefi- 
nite way she connected the ideas, and thought that 
she understood. Aitzig's words had gained a plaus- 
ible support now. 

" If the gracious Pani understands;" suggested 
Aitzig, " then will she not let Aitzig have the paper 
he wants ? " 

"But I know nothing about it; I don't know where 
it is." 

" / know where it is," retorted Aitzig, betrayed for 
one moment into open eagerness. " It lies in the next 
room, just under the lid of the desk." 

" But the desk is locked," said Xenia, " and I have 
not got the keys." 

" True, true ; but the gracious Pan might have taken 
out the paper again and laid it outside ; if the noble 
lady would only go into the next room, and only cast 
a glance about." 

Aitzig's next move was undoubtedly to get into the 
same room with the paper. Eemembering a certain 
small circumstance which he had noted the other day, 
he made this move with a hopefully beating heart. 

Xenia, half willing, half unwilling, led the way into 
Lucyan's writing-room ; and scarcely had Aitzig crept 
in behind her, when he experienced a violent inclina- 
tion to clap his hands, and kick up his slippered heels 
for joy, for his first glance towards the desk had 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 77 

shown him that he was right. An expressive gape of 
the lid met his eye ; it had never been properly closed. 
Oh joy and wonder ! Not even a lock, only a woman 
betw^een him and the thing he wanted. Might his 
name be no longer Aitzig Majulik if he did not j)rove 
himself able to gain his object now. 

" Why, the desk is open," said Xenia, going up to 
it, but stopping a pace off, and looking at it rather 
shyly. She so very seldom entered her husband's 
private room, that she was scarcely familiar with its 
objects ; and Lucyan's desk inspired her with a kind 
of awe. 

" Of course the desk is open," argued Aitzig ; " the 
noble gentleman has left it open on purpose, so that 
the noble lady should give my paper." 

" But he told me nothing about it," said Xenia, still 
reluctant. 

'' Gott imd die Welt I but that is strange, that he 
should have said nothing of it ! " cried Aitzig, throw- 
ing up his hands. " The noble gentleman must have 
forgotten in the hurry ; but the paper is there, waiting 
for me — I know it is. Lift but the lid a little, ever 
so little, and you will see the paper that lies waiting 
for Aitzig Majulik. Oh, there now ! does the gracious 
lady believe Aitzig's words now?" for Xenia had 
carefully lifted the lid a little way and caught sight 
of the folded sheet beneath. Aitzig had caught sight 



78 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUR. 

of it too, and in this moment he would have liked best 
to snatch up the paper and make off with it through 
the door. That course would scarcely be safe, how- 
ever, and he stood in a fever of expectancy, w^atching 
Xenia, as she slowly pulled out the sheet, and held it 
still folded in her hand. 

" Open it, gracious Pani," said Aitzig, drawing a 
little nearer in his eagerness, " and you will see the 
name of Aitzig Majulik upon it." Peering thus over 
her shoulder, with his face not a quarter of a yard from 
hers, Aitzig looked like some wizened sorcerer ; and 
Xenia, with this foil to her beauty, appeared like the 
fairy-princess, around whom the sorcerer is weaving 
his enchantments. 

She opened the paper, and sav/ the name of Aitzig 
Majulik, and saw Lu cyan's signature at the bottom. 
The blinds had not been drawn up in this room to- 
day, so the paper w^as not easy to read at a glance ; 
she saw something about a sum of money, but whether 
the sum were sixty, or six hundred, or six thousand 
florins, she did not think of investigating. 

"It is most gracious of the noble lady to give to 
Aitzig the paper," began Aitzig, thinking it best policy 
to thank in advance for the favour which he had not 
yet received. 

" But I do not know whether Lucyan meant me to 
give it to you," said Xenia, doubtfully. 



QUEEN AND KNAVE. 79 

" It is but a piece of paper, a little piece of paper," 
said Aitzig, in an accent of infantine innocence. " If 
Aitzig asked for money, then would it be wise to 
hesitate ; but he asks only for a little piece of 
paper." 

" And you say that it is for the Propinacya that you 
need it ? " she questioned, still doubtfully. 

" For the Propinacya, yes, assuredly." 

"And that old man I saw, Naftali Taubenkubel, 
is it for him that you must have the paper ? " 

" Assuredly, assuredly," answered Aitzig, with brazen 
untruth. As long as he got the paper into his hands, 
it did not matter what pretext he used. 

" Surely it would be right to give him the paper," 
thought Xenia, as she stood hesitating. " It must be 
right, as his name was on it." She was not accustomed 
to do anything by her own choice, but always that 
which others told her, even if the other were only a 
Jew. On the whole, she felt half proud of her pres- 
ent position. Lucyan had told her so often that she 
understood nothing of business; he had scolded her 
for having been awkward in getting those letters from 
Kazimir, and now she had a notion that she was 
going to vindicate her intelligence by proving herself 
capable of giving a paper to a Jew. She was on the 
point of yielding, when once more the thought of such 
a distinct act made her take fright. 



80 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

"Cannot Naftali Taubenkiibel wait till Lucyan is 
back ? " she protested. 

" Gott und die Welt ! " cried Aitzig, desperate at her 
hesitation, and aiming a bold stroke at a spot which 
he had already marked as weak ; " are not his grand- 
children starving ? did he not tell the gracious Pani so 
himself?" The grandchildren turned the scale, for 
Xenia could not bear to think of any one as starving ; 
and the image of the old Jew, and the sound of his 
curses were still so vivid, that she trembled at the 
recollection. She did not in the least see how the 
grandchildren were going to be benefited by the paper; 
but yet the paper in another moment had passed from 
the white to the shrivelled yellow hand, and Aitzig, 
restraining a strong inclination to skip from the room, 
was, with trembling fingers, buttoning it safe up into 
the breast of his kaftan. 



81 



CHAPTER XIII. 

BETWEEN PARTNERS. 

" Noa sura qualis eram." 

—Horace. 

It was with a sense of relief and respite that Lucyan 
stepped into his carriage as he started from home. 
For some days, at least, all worries were to be left 
behind him. In a few years' time, he reflected with 
satisfaction, it would be a first-class coup6 into which 
he could step almost at his own door ; and whereas it 
now took him a day to reach the capital, it would take 
him but a few hours then. Let Xenia complain of 
headaches as much as she liked, the inconvenience of 
having the rocks blasted so near to the house was well 
worth bearing patiently for the sake of the result in 
view. 

These thoughts were exhilarating ; and Lucyan had 
not been long gone from home, when his mind began 
to settle down into something like its normal quiet. 
He set to considering the last scene with Aitzig Maju- 

VOL. III. F 



82 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

lik. On the whole he was glad that he had withheld 
the paper. It was wiser not to have committed him- 
self rashly. When he had slept a night over it, he 
would be able to see clearer, no doubt. 

Lucyan slept a night over it ; and next morning 
he did see more clearly. " What would have been the 
immediate result of that pa^^er passing into Aitzig's 
hands ? " he reflected dispassionately. 

For Lucyan himself it would have been peace from 
persecution ; and for Aitzig ? For Aitzig it would 
have been a certitude of payment. That paper once 
in his hands, Aitzig could be sure of getting his money 
under all contingencies. " Yes, he would be sure of 
it," thought Lucyan ; " whatever else might happen — 
however much I might delay — he would be sure of it, 
whether I were alive or dead." 

" Whether I were dead ! " Tlie thought struck upon 
him disagreeably. Aitzig would* not be likely to be- 
wail his death ; and something in the train of reflection 
led him back to some words which Aitzig had said yes- 
terday when he had spoken of Kazimir as the possible 
master of Wowasulka. They had jarred upon him 
then, and they came back upon him now. With 
double force they came back; they disturbed and 
oppressed him ; and the look which Aitzig had worn 
came back to him too. The more he dwelt on the 
recollection — and he dwelt on it with all the morbid 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 83 

persistency of overstrained nerves — the more sinister 
a meaning did that tone and look appear to assume. 
And at last it flashed across his mind, " Why, Aitzig 
would not only be as sure, he would be much surer of 
his money, were I dead instead of alive ! " 

Now did he thank his stars for having guided him 
to withhold the paper. It is always a mistake when 
one man makes his death the object of another man's 
interest. A sort of panic came over him at the thought 
of what he had so nearly done. If it had not been for 
losing that stupid comb, he reflected, and with it his 
presence of mind, he never could have come so near to 
doing it. It was true what Aitzig had said : he had 
been so clever that all other men had been as fools 
beside him; and now, for all his cleverness, he had 
barely saved himself on the verge of the veriest school- 
boy mistake. Like a man who has ridden hard all his 
life, and ends by breaking his neck over a cart-rut, so 
had Lucy an conquered all dangers, to blunder at last 
in the simplest of things — a mere scrap of paper. He 
had caught himself on the edge of a precipice, and 
though he was saved from the fall into the abyss, he 
felt rather giddy, merely from having looked down. 

The terror of what he had so nearly done, and the 
relief of not having done it, engendered in Lucyan a 
sensation akin to intoxication. He walked the streets 
of the capital in a mood so buoyant that he scarcely 



84 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

recognised himself. He felt better than he had done 
for weeks, — he felt as if he had drunk champagne; 
he felt almost as if he could have uttered a prayer of 
thanksgiving for the self-confidence, in which he had 
begun to doubt, being once more restored to him. 
Never before had he so believed in the guidance of 
his good star as he believed in it now. 

This buoyancy remained with him as he travelled 
homewards : it was unabated still as he reached Wowa- 
sulka, late in the evening. The Pani had retired to 
bed : the supper had been kept for the Pan ; it was on 
the table. Lucyan was glad to hear it, — glad that the 
Pani was in bed, for her talk would only have wearied 
him, — and glad that the supper was on the table, for 
he felt quite abnormally hungry. The supper was 
done justice to. " I have eaten well," said Lucyan, as 
he rose from the table, feeling rather surprised at him- 
self; "and I feel as if I could sleep well to-night, — 
the first real sleep for a month at least : I should sleep 
all the better if I laid that paper under my pillow, as 
the children do with their toys. Supposing I lay it 
there ? " and still smiling in a sort of amused wonder 
at himself, and at his own childishness, Lucyan took 
up the solitary lamp, and carried it into the next 
room. He was eager to handle again that trump-card 
with which he had so nearly been parting in foolish 
haste. 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 85 

The next room was his writing-room — his own pri- 
vate apartment, sacred to himself, — the sanctuary of 
his secrets, of his cares, and of his triumphs. There 
was nothing to show that the sanctuary had been 
violated. The place had been tidied and dusted ; the 
pencils had been freshly cut : upon the desk the pen- 
holders were ranged with an almost military precision, 
presenting their inky bayonets with perfect regular- 
ity ; and beside them there lay a little object, white 
and long — the ivory comb, which had come to light in 
the dusting of the room. This was all exactly as it 
should be, — exactly as Lucyan had always found his 
room after every absence from home. He caressingly 
passed his hand down the slope of the oaken lid, think- 
ing how well that desk had kept his secrets for him. 
Faithful and discreet old friend! stout, unassailable, 
and silent How was that ? The lamp which Lu- 
cyan held rattled loudly in his hand : he had started 
in that moment — a start of surprise and terror. His 
fingers had reached the lower end of the lid, when, at 
that moment, he felt it yield to his touch. There was 
no resistance to meet an intruding hand, — the desk 
was unlocked. At first he refused to believe it. He 
preferred to doubt the sight which his eyes saw, and 
the sensation which his fingers experienced, to admit- 
ting the possibility that he should have left his desk 
unlocked. This — this alone — was not as it should be. 



80 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

This was, as for all the world it should not have been. 
A second time he tried the lid, opening it no more 
than an inch; then he began slowly to believe, — to 
believe, that is to say, that it was open — not that he 
had left it open. Carefully placing the lamp on the 
table, he sat down, and attempted to think out the 
situation. With a great effort he forced his mind 
back to the circumstances of his departure. The talk 
with Aitzig was quite distinct ; the sight of Aitzig in 
his shroud was very clear ; so was the writing of the 
paper, — but then he was checked by a blank. -When 
he attempted to picture the moment of turning the 
key, his memory refused the image. He could re- 
member having locked the desk innumerable times ; 
he could remember the details of many such lockings ; 
but this particular time he could not reach by any 
effort of mind. The key was in his pocket ; but it 
could afford him no clue. If he had forgotten to turn 
it in the lock, thought Lucyan, then his clearness of 
mind was beginning to go. He put his hand to his 
forehead, and wondered to feel it so cold and damp. 
He had been even nearer to the brink of the abyss 
than he had thought himself; and once more that 
terrible giddiness of brain seized upon him. As he 
leant forward to open the desk, the walls seemed tot- 
tering towards him on either side, and the floor to be 
sinkinoj from under his feet. 



BETWEEN PAIITNERS. 87 

The desk was scarcely open yet when he knew that 
the paper was gone. There were a hundred nooks and 
drawers where it might have lain ; but in the moment 
that he flung up the lid and looked within, Lucyan 
understood at once that he had been robbed. What- 
ever else had grown dim, the exact position which 
that sheet had occupied had remained perfectly clear. 
The emptiness at which he stared had more meaning 
to him than any fulness he had ever seen ; this blank 
was more tangible, this absence was more positive, 
than any presence had ever been. 

" Eobbery ! " he muttered, and stealthily glanced 
around him. No trace of robbery met his eye. The 
room was undisturbed, absolute order reigned. He 
examined the lock, and found that it had not been 
forced. The thirty thousand florins lay untouched 
where he had left them. By this time his hands were 
shaking with excitement, like the hands of an old man 
in palsy. He lifted them to his head, and, rising from 
the chair, stood clutching his temples rigidly. The 
necessity of thinking and the impossibility of think- 
ing clearly just now overwhelmed him. " To-morrow," 
he said aloud, struggling in the terrible confusion of 
thought — " to-morrow, when I have slept ; " but in the 
same moment he seemed to see his sleepless night 
before him as distinct as a reality. He took a turn in 
the room to calm himself. " If my steadiness fails 



88 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

me," he reflected, " I am lost. This will not do ; I 
must sleep. There must be draughts in the apothe- 
cary's at Tarajow which will make me sleep. It is 

too late for to-day ; but to-morrow — to-morrow ." 

Mechanically he took up the lamp, and guided him- 
self carefully from the room. " To-morrow, to-morrow," 
he was still muttering as he entered the bedroom, 
walking like a drunken man. 

The light flashed across Xenia's face as she lay in 
bed, and awoke her. Very slowly she turned on her 
pillow, and her blue eyes, dim with sleep, wandered 
towards the entering figure. That mutter of " to- 
morrow " had broken in upon her dream, and she was 
still half dreaming as she drowsily watched Lucyan 
coming in. 

" To-morrow ? What is there to-morrow ? " she said, 
sleepily ; and then, as Lucyan turned at the sound of 
her voice, the sleepy look left her eyes. 

" Are you ill, Lucyan ? " she asked, abruptly ; " you 
are so pale. Has anything happened ? " 

" I have been robbed," said Lucyan, sullenly. 

"Eobbed?" Xenia started to a sitting posture, 
wide awake in a moment, while one heavy brown 
plait fell over the front of the embroidered night- 
dress. " Is it my diamonds ? " she gasped. " Oh, 
Lucyan, please lock the door!" 

Lucyan did not lock the door ; perhaps he had not 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 89 

heard the request. Of all that she had said, he 
seemed only to have heard the word " diamonds ; " 
and he smiled scornfully as he heard it. 

" I wish it was your diaraonds ! " he laughed, with 
an evil glitter of his eye. 

'' Then what is it?" questioned Xenia, preparing to 
draw her handkerchief from under the pillow. " What 
has been robbed, Lucyan ? " 

" Nothing that you know nor could understand. 
Go to sleep and leave me alone." 

" I can't sleep till I know ; please, please tell me." 

" It is my desk, then," said Lucyan, for the mere 
sake of peace. " My desk has been robbed. There, 
leave me alone now." 

Lucyan turned without even glancing at his wife's 
face, and took another turn in the room ; but Xenia 
remained sitting up in her bed, and the air of alarmed 
distress began to melt from her face. 

" Was there any money in the desk, Lucyan ? " 

" What is that to you ? There is no money gone." 

" What is there gone ? " 

" A piece of paper. Now, I suppose, you are much 
the wiser," he sneered. Lucyan expected her to shrink 
under the sneer, but she did not. She remained look- 
ing at him, while a half-triumphant smile began to 
dawn round her lips and in her eyes. 

"Of course I am much the wiser," she said, while 



90 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

childish exultation rang in her voice. " Tt is all right 
about the piece of paper ; it has not been robbed." 

Lucyan smiled absently, scarcely listening to the 
words, and certainly not believing them. 

" I know where the paper is ! " said Xenia, exult- 
ant, although a little hurt at this disregard of her 
present importance. 

" Really," said Lucyan, still in that dull uninter- 
ested tone of voice. 

" Yes, it was a paper for Aitzig Majulik," she 
eagerly went on, leaning forward with clasped hands 
in her effort to rouse Lucyan. " It was for Aitzig 
Majulik, and you forgot to give it him before you 
went away." 

" What about Aitzig Majulik ? " Lucyan asked, 
slowly. 

" Well, Aitzig was in a great hurry for the paper ; 
you forgot to give it him, and I " 

" And you ? " 

" I gave it him," said Xenia, simply. 

Lucyan shrugged his shoulders. " Go to sleep, 
child," he said ; " you are talking nonsense." ' He was 
scarcely roused yet. Up to this moment he had been 
too dazed to adopt any theory, or to attempt any 
explanation of the disappearance. He had simply 
recognised the fact and nothing more. This theory 
suggested by Xenia he thought not worth considering. 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 91 

His wife had always been so completely separate from 
liis business, that it was very difficult to realise any 
connection between the two. He was half ashamed 
of himself for having entered even thus far into the 
subject with her ; it was a mere wasteful bandying of 
words. As wisely discuss literature with a street-boy 
as talk of business to Xenia. 

" T am not talking nonsense," she said, with her 
favourite shrug and her prettiest pout. " Aitzig said 
that he must have the paper, and it was lying in the 
top of your desk,. directly under the lid." 

" So it was," said Lucy an, quickly. He had just 
then reached the far end of the room; he stopped 
short, and, with his hands behind his back, stood 
facing his wife. Her last words had hit his attention 
at last. " Directly under the lid ! " Yes ; that was the 
exact way in which the paper had lain. How well he 
knew the spot ! It was strange that she should know 
it too. 

" Yes," chattered on Xenia ; " and the desk was 
open." 

" So it was," said Lucyan again, still staring at his 
wife. " And the paper, what was it like ? " 

" It was blue, and it was folded in two, this way," 
going through the action with her hands. 

" Exactly ; and you took it out ? " 

" Of course I did." 



92 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" And what did you do with it ? " 

" I gave it to Aitzig Majulik ; I told you so ah^eady." 

" Because he asked for it ? " 

" He begged for it, and I found it quite easily, with- 
out any trouble. You left the desk open on purpose, 
did you not, Lucyan ? " 

She got no answer ; and looking up, she saw Lucyan 
walking slowly towards her down the length of the 
room, with his eyes intent upon her ; and, as he came 
nearer, there was something so terrible in his face, 
that Xenia, with a shriek, cowered to her pillow, and 
covered her eyes with her hands. 

" No," said Lucyan, " that is not it. Do you know 
why you gave him the paper ? I will tell you. Be- 
cause you are a fool ! " 

He was close by the bed, standing over her, as she 
crouched before him. With one hand he tore down 
the satin coverlet in which she had hidden her face, 
and now she could see his eyes gleaming fiercely 
above her, and his features, as she had never seen 
them before, distorted with fury. 

" You are a fool, Xenia ! " he cried, in a passion so 
sudden and so fearful, that the sight of it seemed to 
stop the blood in her veins. " You have ruined me 
and lost me. Oh, why was I cursed with a fool for 
my wife ? " 

This transport of rage was all the more awful for 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 93 

being the first in Lucyan's life. To his sneers, his 
taunts, and his sarcasm, Xenia had got blunted long 
ago, but never before had she seen him in a passion. 
He was much too clever not to have been irritated by 
her stupidity, and much too fastidious not to have 
been surfeited long ago by her beauty ; but never once 
had he been even tempted to lose his temper in this 
or any other contingency in life. This was the first 
instance of the kind, and, paralysed by surprise, 
Xenia lay and stared into the face above her. 

" Do not stare, but speak ! " cried Lucyan. " Star- 
ing does not suit you. Methinks you are losing your 
looks, child ; and what remains of a fool when her 
looks are gone ? Ha ! Have you nothing to say ? 
Nothing ? Nothing to shield yourself with ? No ex- 
cuse ? What devil made you give that paper to the 
Jew ? Speak, in heaven's name, but do not stare ! " 
and he shook her by the shoulder. 

" It was about Naftali Taubenktibel," she faltered, 
white with fear — " about his grandchildren." 

" What do you know about Naftali Taubenktibel ? " 

Xenia felt as though her senses were deserting her ; 
she began to sob helplessly. 

" He looked so dreadful ! " she faltered, in incoherent 
terror. " I thought he would kill me on the road; and 
then " 

" / will kill you," said Lucyan, " unless you are 



94 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

quiet this instant ! No tears, no noise ! I have borne 
your simpering folly long enough. Have a care now !" 
His whole face sharpened with passion. He had just 
enough self-command remaining to keep him from 
striking his wife, but that was all. 

For once in her life Xenia found strength to check 
her tears. That strength was born of her weakness. 
Dumfoundered by surprise, paralysed by sheer terror, 
she lay on her pillow, and the very drops on her e3^e- 
lashes seemed to hang there frozen ; she dared not 
cry nor speak, she dared not look at her husband, and 
she dared not look away. Trembling, and pale as 
death, she cowered under his gaze. 

Lucyan stood thus, with his lingers stiffly clasped 
on the coverlet for a minute longer, staring hard at 
Xenia's face. It was the face of a beautiful woman 
to all the world; to him alone it was the face of a 
fool. 

After that minute he dropped the satin quilt and 
stepped back. The climax of his passion was past 
already. 

" Do not speak, do not move," he said, between his 
teeth. " Leave me in peace — leave me quite in peace;" 
and once more he began to pace the room with a fixed 
and abstracted air, almost as though he had forgotten 
the very existence of his wife. 

And she lay exactly as he had told her, without 



BETWEEN PARTNERS. 95 

moving and without speaking ; counting the minutes 
first and then the hours, as she heard tlie clock in the 
passage strike ; peeping cautiously through her fingers 
to watch Lucyan, as incessantly he paced the bedroom 
floor ; shuddering a little whenever he passed the bed, 
although his eyes never once moved towards her. 
And as she lay and watched, wakeful all the night 
through, a feeling unknown to her, a strange sensa- 
tion of loathing, crept into her heart. The fear that 
she had felt of her husband hitherto had been but 
a mental fear. For the first time, to-night she had 
trembled before him in physical terror. 

Never till to-night had any emotion of any sort 
robbed Xenia of even an hour of that sweet childlike 
sleep which had been her gift from infancy — the great 
preserver of her beauty ; but now she lay through the 
whole long night not venturing to move, though her 
arm was cramped with long lying ; listening only 
with strained attention for the strike of the clock, and 
looking with fevered eyes for the dawn which should 
deliver her. 

The dawn broke at last, dull, grey, and chilly. 
Lucyan was still pacing the floor, and Xenia still 
lay and watched him. 



96 



CHAPTER XIV. 

" REVANCHE." 



' Yes, there be things which we must dream and dare, 
And execute ere thought be half aware." 

—Byron. 



"I SHOULD be the happiest man alive," said Jan 
Wronski, sadly, as he entered the back-shop of his 
apothecary one afternoon — " I should be the happiest 
man alive if only I could obtain a mad dog at this 
moment." 

There was no one in the back-shop but his daughter 
Janina, and she scarcely raised her head as her father 
entered. " Why ? " was all she said, in a listless tone. 

" Because I have found it now, I have got it at last ; 
from this hour forth the world is delivered of one of 
its greatest — I might almost venture to say, its greatest 
scourge." Though the words were exultant, the tone 
was not. Jan Wronski, as he announced his triumph, 
looked as dismal as ever, and his hair streamed long 
and lanky over his shirt-collar, thinly veiling his ears. 



" REVANCHE." 97 

" The specific for hydrophobia ? " answered Janina, 
without any sign of surprise. 

" That it is, and I found it to-day." 

" But you found it last year, father ; and you found 
it five years ago ; and you found it also the year after 
I was born." 

Jan Wronski waved his hand, and smiled a melan- 
choly smile. " Fancies, visions, foreshadowings," he 
murmured, " mere shades of the reality which now 
I have found ; all I need is a subject to try it on : 
and therefore, as I said before, I should be the happiest 
man in the world if I could obtain a mad dog." 

He placed, as he spoke, a heavy glass jar on the 
table ; and then, with clasped hands, stood gazing at 
it in a sort of rapt ecstasy. 

"A subject, a subject, — that is all that I want, 
Janina. Would it not be a good plan if you stepped 
into the courtyard and gave one more look at Aesculap 
in his kennel ? It struck me to-day that he was not 
taking his food with quite his usual eagerness. Sup- 
posing he were to go mad " — the vision of happiness 
conjured up was almost too much for Jan Wronski to 
bear. He uttered a groan of mingled emotions. 

" No, it would not be a good plan," said Janina, 
peevishly. " I am not going to the courtyard any 
more. I have been there a dozen times to-day, and 
Aesculap is as sane as any dog ever was ; he stole half 

VOL. III. G 



98 ' BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

a cold chicken this afternoon. I tell you, father, he is 
hopelessly sane." 

Jan sighed despondently, not so much over the lost 
half chicken, as over the incontestable proof of Aescu- 
lap's sanity which it afforded. Innumerable times 
already had the unfortunate Aesculap been suspected 
of madness, only to clear himself brilliantly of the 
imputation. His appetite and humours were studied 
by his master with a critical and a watchful eye. Jan 
Wronski was] careful every year at Easter-time not to 
let Aesculap taste any morsel of the blest laba, which 
the country-people generally regard as a preservative 
against hydrophobia ; but it was all in vain. Not only 
did Aesculap refuse to go mad, but he had hitherto 
shown himself possessed of a mind more regularly 
balanced than most of his fellows. 

" To think that it only wants a subject," said Jan, 
gazing at the glass jar lovingly. " It was at twenty- 
one minutes past four that I made the discovery — (I 
mention the moment, as it will doubtless become his- 
torical.) Three drops — no more than three drops out 
of this bottle — gave the iinishing-touch to my work, 
clenched the business in fact, if I may so express 
myself," — and opening his fingers, he disclosed a high 
and narrow glass bottle, containing a colourless fluid. 
" Do you see that bottle, Janina ? " 

" Yes," she said, indifferently. " What is it ? " 



" REVAXCHE." 99 

" It is poison — a deadly poison — with a Latin name 
which you could not understand and would not re- 
member. Are you attending to me, Janina ? " 

"Yes," said Janina, with a movement of weary 
impatience. 

''If you give three drops out of that bottle to a 
person in health, it will kill him in five minutes ; and 
if you give the same quantity to a man bitten by 
a mad dog, it will cure him in ten. Is that not a 
magnificent mystery of Nature ? " 

" Very," said Janina, staring at the bottle vacantly. 

" I was very near it yesterday," maundered on Jan. 
" I had laid the foundation, the groundwork, as it 
were, but those three drops were the crown of my 
efforts." Slowly and carefully he placed the bottle 
on the table beside the glass jar. Upon the same 
table were ranged various small boxes, pots, and 
bottles, all waiting to be done up in white paper. 

"Ah, the orders for to-morrow ! " said Jan, sighing 
a little, as his eye fell upon them, and giving his lanky 
mane a spiritless shake. It was a sacrifice to step 
down from the heights, to leave his discovered specific 
for ordinary pills and powders which other men had 
discovered long ago. 

" The names are not marked, Janina : how is this ? " 

" Could I guess the names ? " she retorted, im- 
patiently. 



100 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

" To be sure," said Jan, who was rather in awe of 
his daughter's temper ; " I forgot to give you the list. 
Here, I will dictate, and you can write ; " and pulling 
out a strip of paper, Jan began the dictation : " Tonic 
powders — Madame Dulceska (the last didn't agree, 
I have changed the colour of the paper) ; digestive 
pills — Professor Kluski (see that the dozen is not com- 
plete — a useless extravagance, nobody ever counts 
their pills) ; sleeping-drops — six drops on sugar night 
and morning — Pan Bielinski (remember to put a gold 
paper round the cork). Why are you not writing, 
Janina?" for Janina, with her pen in her hand, was 
gazing upwards instead of writing. 

" Pan Bielinski," she repeated. " Which Pan Bie- 
linski ? " 

" Tlie Pan Bielinski, of course ; the Marszalek, not 
the hussar captain — no hussar ever needs sleeping- 
drops ; and not the other, for he is not likely to awake 
just yet," said Jan, with a laugh; the apothecary 
rather prided himself on these dismal jokes. " It is 
Lucy an Bielinski of Wowasulka." 

" And he wants sleeping-drops ? " 

" He sent for them this afternoon ; he has suffered 
from headaches lately, and is disturbed in his sleep." 

" He may well be." 

" What is that you said 1 " 

" Did I say anything ? It was a mistake, — go on ; " 



" REVANCHE." 101 

but though she dipped the pen in ink, Janina could 
not succeed in forming the big B for the Marszalek's 
name. She made two vain attempts to steady her 
hand, and then, throwing down the pen, she gave 
it up. 

" Are you ill ? " asked her father, not exactly with 
interest, but with surprise. In flinging down the pen 
she had all but knocked over his precious bottle, and 
having hastily rescued the top-heavy flask, he looked 
at his daughter reproachfully. 

"Yes, I am ill," said Janina, grimly. "Has that 
never struck you before?" 

Jan looked at his daughter with a passing touch of 
alarm. " You do look rather pale to-day ; I cannot 
say that I ever noticed it ; I am so busy always, you 
know." So he was, poor man, and always had been, 
far too busy to notice his daughter's doings and looks. 
To him she was not a daughter ; he had no daughter, 
he had a machine — a machine which mixed pills and 
cut out paper rounds and wrote labels. She listened, 
without hearing them, to his lectures on hydrophobia, 
and she occasionally frightened him with a burst of 
temper. But he had got used to that; all machines 
get out of order at times. To-day it struck him that 
the machine was more seriously out of order than 
usual. 

" I fancy you used to be pretty, Janina," he said, 



102 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

dismally — " that was my impression at least ; but T 
do not think you are pretty now. Do you really think 
you are too ill to write those names ? The medicine 
will be sent for to-night, you know." 

Janina took up her pen again wearily. Her father 
bustled about a minute longer ; placed the jar on a 
shelf, and the high glass bottle beside it. Having 
done this, he took up a brush and began smoothing 
his lanky hair ; then, with an undecided glance to- 
wards his daughter, who never raised her head, he 
proceeded nervously to trim his nails : finally, with 
a sudden resolution, he seized his hat and umbrella, 
and coughed loudly to attract Janina's attention. 

She looked up with a frown. The sight of her 
father, hat in hand, appeared to give her some sort 
of a shock. "Are you going?" she asked, with a 
look of fear. 

" Yes, on some business." Jan's business consisted 
just then in paying a round of visits. He was about 
to drop in upon each of his intimates in turn, and, 
under the seal of secrecy, to impart to the bookbinder, 
the hairdresser, and the confectioner, the news of the 
discovery which burned on his tongue. "You will 
mind that the packets are neatly done up, Janina," he 
added; "and you will keep an eye on the shop. I 
shall not be gone much more than an hour." 

" So long ! " she said, with a shudder. " Do not go, 



" REVANCHE." 103 

father," she cried, all at once ; and rising with un- 
expected energy, she crossed the room and threw her 
arms around him. Such exhibitions of tenderness were 
so rare, that they were apt to embarrass Jan Wronski. 
He was overwhelmed with embarrassment now, as well 
as suffocated, by his daughter's embrace. 

" Dear me ! to be sure, why should I not go ? You 
don't want me for the labels, do you ? " 

" I — I am afraid," said Janina, in a whisper. Her 
father gave a good-natured laugh, and absently patted 
her cheek. He was in mind already watching the 
envious glance of the hairdresser's eye as the news 
of the great discovery was broken to him. The hair- 
dresser, it must be understood, had for five years past 
been working at a rival discovery — a pomatum which 
was to banish baldness from the world. 

"Dear me, Janina, what a child you are for your 
age ! There — let me go," and unclasping her hands 
he made straight for the door. He was opening it, 
when his daughter's voice recalled him. 

" Will you not take away that bottle ? " she was 
saying, speaking slowly, and with her eyes bent ob- 
stinately before her. 

" Which bottle ? " 

" The bottle with that white stuff — with that poison." 

" Why should I take it away ? " inquired the dismal 
apothecary. 



104 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Something might happen to it — it might fall : the 
shelf is narrow." 

" I will put it on a broader one. There — it is quite 
safe." 

" But I wish you would take it away." 

" Why ? " 

" It makes me sick to look at it." 

That was no reason for Jan Wronski. " Don't look 
at it then," he would have said, had he been quicker 
at repartee. But he was too slow for that ; he merely 
shook his head with an air of melancholy wonder, and 
gently closed the door behind him. He opened it once 
more, and whispered through the chink, " Don't forget 
the gold paper on the Marszalek's medicine ; take the 
ribbed sheet, you know." Janina made no answer. 
She stood for a minute, just as her father had left her, 
with her eyes fixed on the floor ; while the arms which 
he had shaken from him sank slowly down to her 
sides. Then she went back to her chair, and resumed 
her arrangements of paper and twine. And all this 
time her heavy eyelids were sunk so low over her 
eyes, that they appeared as though glued there. It 
was a dark afternoon, and a drizzly rain was beginning 
to fall. In the apothecary's back shop the light was 
spare ; and after the front door had fallen shut behind 
Jan, the silence became almost complete. The rain 
dripped past the window ; and now and then a goose 



" REVANCHE." 105 

cackled in the yard, and occasionally Aesculap emerged 
from his medicine-chest, and rattled his chain as he 
shook himself; but such subdued sounds scarcely 
broke the silence for Janina. Silence was hateful 
to her at all times, — it was insupportable to-day. 
She fastened up the powders for Madame Dulceska, 
— she counted out the pills for Professor Kluski, 
taking care to give him one pill less than the dozen, — 
and yet she saw neither pills nor powders. Though 
she never looked towards it, she saw nothing but that 
high glass bottle on the shelf, with the colourless white 
fluid. It seemed to her that in the whole room there 
was nothing but that one bottle ; that she was alone 
with it, for all the other jars and boxes around. She 
fancied that the bottle had eyes, and was watching her ; 
she fancied that it had fingers, and was beckoning to 
her ; that it had a tongue, and was whispering to her. 
The sleeping-draught was the last of the medicines 
to be fastened up. Janina reached it in due course of 
time, and deliberately unfolding a sheet of gold paper, 
she began cutting out the round she required. It was 
not until the round was all but completed that she 
appeared able to sit still no longer. Dropping the 
scissors, the paper, and upsetting a box of pills, she 
rose abruptly to her feet. 

Now at last she raised her eyes and looked slowly 
about her. She looked at everything in the room first : 



106 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

at the walls, at the ceiling, at the tables and chairs ; and 
last of all, with a defiant turn of the head, she looked 
at the shelf where the high white bottle stood. Having 
once looked at it, she could not look away ; and she 
could not keep away. That colourless fluid — did it 
not look as pure as crystal, as innocent as any water 
which ever bubbled over mountain-stone ? How could 
it look so harmless and be so deadly ? Poison ! was 
it really poison ? She would like to convince herself, 
and already she was crossing the room. It seemed to 
her that she was being drawn towards that shelf, like 
a ship towards a loadstone rock ; that white bottle was 
calling to her so loudly to come near it, to touch it, to 
uncork it and smell it. Janina had placed a chair 
beside the shelf, and mounting upon it had taken down 
the bottle. Before she touched it, she kept quiet for 
a moment, listening. If her father should come back 
now — if a customer should enter the front shop ! 
Would it be her ruin or her salvation ? Was it with 
dread or with longing that she listened ? But no — 
the opportunity was perfect. Jan was just then safely 
ensconced beside the confectioner's oven, and no cus- 
tomer came near the shop ; there was only the sound 
of the rain in the water-butt, and a feeble quack in the 
yard, and another rattle of Aesculap's chain. Alas 
that it was all so silent and so still, — so silent and 
so safe for Janina ! When she reached the floor again. 



" REVANCHE." 107 

she stood leaning breathless against the wall ; for the 
stretching had fatigued her, and for a moment she 
feared to faint. 

Presently she recovered, and looked down at the 
bottle she held. " Sleeping-drops," she said aloud ; 
" he wants something that will make him sleep : why 
should he not have it ? What was it my father said ? 
Three drops given to a person in health, — yes, yes ; 
that would do. Has my time come at last ? " 

The hour was past, and Jan was not yet returned. 
Janina could bear it no longer — could bear the still- 
ness and the loneliness no longer. Snatching up her 
shawl, and leaving the shop to the mercy of fate, she 
walked out into the rain. 

The town was far behind her before she thought of 
looking round ; and then only she noticed that the 
dusk was creeping in. Upon the dusk would follow 
the darkness, and upon the darkness would come the 
light of another day. And that other day; what would 
it bring ? Misery and remorse ; shame and disgrace. 
They were upon her already. With sudden terror she 
now thought of what she had done. Perhaps it was 
the sharpness of the October air which had given her 
back her senses, — the question was, whether it had 
cjiven them back too late. 

Janina started homewards, running in the teeth of 
the rain. She had no notion how lonsf she had been 



108 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

gone from home, nor how late it was ; but the falling 
dusk filled her with apprehension. 

On the Place she passed Professor Kluski's little 
boy, bearing away the incomplete dozen of pills which 
were to assist his papa's digestion; on the door-steps 
she ran against Madame Dulceska's cook, carrying off 
her mistress's powders ; and brushing past this indig- 
dant female, she burst breathless into the shop. 

" Has the Marszalek sent for his sleeping-drops ? " 
she inquired fiercely of her father, who stood behind 
the counter. 

" No, he has not," answered Jan, somewhat testily. 
He had intended to receive his daughter with a repri- 
mand for her abandonment of the shop ; but he looked 
at her face and changed his mind. 

" Then they are here still ? " 

" No, they are not ; I gave them to a man who 
passed the door on his way to Wowasulka. How you 
have been running ! Was it because you forgot the 
gold paper ? " asked Jan, anxiously. 

" No," said Janina, with a strange laugh ; " I put the 
gold paper on." And a minute later she asked, " Who 
has taken the bottle ? " 

It was Aitzig Majulik, who, passing that way, had 
been espied by Jan Wronski ; and who, for a considera- 
tion of course, had consented to carry the Marszalek's 
medicine to Wowasulka. 



109 



CHAPTER XY. 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. 



" Oh, agony of fear ! 
Would that he yet might live ! " 

— The Cenci : Shelley. 



The early October dusk was stealing over the world, 
when the door of the Wowasulka drawing-room slowly 
opened, and with her finger on her lip, and a skirt 
which trailed black and noiseless behind her, there 
entered on tiptoe, Mademoiselle Eobertine. 

Having closed the door with extreme caution, she 
advanced to the centre of the room, and there came 
to a standstill, carefully shading the candle she held, 
and shooting glances of scrutiny and criticism into the 
furthest and the darkest corners of the apartment. 
Had there been any spectator present to witness Eo- 
bertine's entry, he surely could not have suppressed a 
frisson — a cold shudder of awe and curiosity — as she 
stood thus, black, motionless, inscrutable, gazing slowly 
to the right and to the left. The room, commonplace 



110 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and everyday before, assumed all at once a look of 
mystery. Every shadow deepened as tliough to hide 
a secret. She brought the atmosphere into the room 
with her, as she entered by the door : it was the only 
sort she could live in. Wowasulka would never have 
been Eobertine's home for so long had Lucyan not 
known how, by artificial means, to preserve this at- 
mosphere around her. He kept her money for her, 
and managed it for her too ; and there was so much 
delicious secrecy about the locking up of that money 
and the doling out of it, and so many charmingly 
mysterious consultations concerning it, that Eobertine 
many a time blessed her youngest nephew in her heart, 
— admired his discretion, prudence, and delicate tact, 
— and never for a moment doubted the extreme ad- 
vantage of leaving her money in his hands. 

What dark deed, then, had this awful woman come 
to do in this dark hour ? Was she preparing to elope 1 
But where was to be found a man with such reckless 
boldness ? Was she a second Lady Macbeth ? And 
was that a dagger she held ? 

No, it was only a key. That key locked the cup- 
board in the dining-room. To hide every key in her 
charge was a necessity of Eobertine's nature ; but she 
had found no place to-night which could satisfy her, 
regarding the safety of the cupboard-key. 

"The top of the clock is too slippery," she mur- 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. HI 

mured, " and the hole in the footstool is getting too 
big. Last time I rammed it down the sofa back, but 
I am afraid the servants have guessed the place." 

Carefully lifting a corner of the carpet she placed 
the key underneath ; then shook her head and with- 
drew it. She tried to bury it in an old pile oiJournaux 
des Demoiselles ; she attempted to make it disappear 
among the bushy twigs of one of Lucyan's window- 
plants, — her genius was indefatigable, but dissatisfied. 
After each trial she retired a few steps, and, with her 
head on one side, stood to view the effect. She went 
out by the door and came in again, in order to assure 
herself personally of what a stranger could see. But 
the carpet appeared to her to be transparent, and the 
rhododendron looked treacherous; and, with another 
shake of the head, the key would be withdrawn, and 
intrusted to another place. 

Twice she wandered round the room disconsolate. 
The third time an idea struck her. The white porce- 
lain stove had attracted her eye. Crouching down 
beside it, she opened the small brass door. There, 
smooth, soft, and grey, lay a bed of ashes. So deep, 
so safe a bed for the precious key to sleep in. Tender- 
ly she laid it to rest ; carefully, with her long lean 
fingers, did she rake the ashes over it. 

It was a stroke of genius, and Kobertine thought 
so ; but even now, at the eleventh hour, and after the 



112 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

little brass door was shut again, she began to doubt. 
What if the snow should come overnight and the 
stove be lit next morning ? "What if a servant should 
take it into his head to clear away the last year's 
ashes? Would not the rhododendron be safer? or 
perhaps the door-mat ? And Robertine stood hesitat- 
ino^, with grave mis^rivings in her mind. She thought 
— yes, she was almost sure — she remembered how 
Kazimir last spring had opened the grating to throw 
in a cigar-stump. Supposing he did it again ! Kazimir 
was her bugbear : he concentrated in his person more 
dangers to her secrets than all the rest of the world 
put together. His spurs tore up carpets, his sleeves 
brushed down vases, and laid bare her mysteries to 
the light of the day. He was always sure to interrupt 
her mysterious interviews with tradesmen, and to burst 
in just at the mystic moment when she was telling the 
butcher's boy in a hushed voice to bring eight cutlets 
next day. And now, what was that step in the pas- 
sage ? Eobertine trembled as she listened. If it were 
Kazimir, and he should enter at this moment ! 

But Robertine's mind might have been at rest ; that 
step in the passage was not Kazimir's. Kazimir, just 
then, was at some distance from the spot, riding along 
through the rain with his back turned to Wowasulka. 
He had been in Tarajow seeing after some regimental 
business, and he was on his way home now. Some 



JANTNA THEOWS UP HER CAKDS. 113 

(lays had passed since he had last been at Wowasulka ; 
but his thoughts were there as he rode along through 
the thin, fine rain, which pricked his face like needle- 
points. The bridle was slippery in his hands, and 
the ground was slippery under the horse's feet. Trap- 
pisto, with his wet tail between his legs, and that dis- 
mal, uncomplaining, yet spiritless resignation which 
was peculiar to his character, trotted faithfully in and 
out of the puddles which each footfall of his master's 
horse left behind it. 

The grey of the clouds melted into the grey of the 
falling dusk. Indistinct forms were here and there 
grouped around indistinct willow-trees : cows, stand- 
ing with drooped heads, as motionless as the willows 
themselves, while the rain trickled from the branches 
on their backs, and from their backs to the trampled 
grass. The outlines of beasts and bushes alike were 
blotted out by the mist. 

Of all this Kazimir saw little, for he had drawn the 
hood of his brown cloak low over his forehead, so that 
his view was limited to a pair of wet horse's ears, 
the bit of road, and now, on ahead, the foot-bridge 
which was to be seen between them. When he was 
within twenty paces of the bridge, he heard a splash 
in the water, and when he had drawn a little nearer 
he could see that in the blurred landscape - picture 
before him, there was also a figure, blurred like the 

VOL. III. H 



114 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

landscape by the falling rain. It was upon the bridge 
that the figure stood ; and it might have been the spot, 
or it might have been the attitude, which instantly 
carried back Kazimir's thoughts to that Easter-eve 
last spring, the day when he had heard that a Wowa- 
sulka letter awaited him at home. 

He had crossed the ford at least a hundred times 
since, and a hundred times passed by that lonely 
bridge; but never except on that day, and on this, 
had that figure, or any figure, stood there. 

Before he had got much nearer Kazimir recognised 
that it was the same figure. A woman, with a shawl 
around her, leaning over the railing, her back to him, 
and her eyes on the water. It almost seemed to 
Kazimir as if she had stood thus ever since, splash- 
ing stones into the water, just as she had done on 
Easter-eve. 

"Good evening," he called out as he reached the 
edge of the stream. He had not spoken to Janina since 
their meeting on this spot, nor had he in fact set eyes 
on her from that day to this. Of all that had passed 
between the apothecary's daughter and Marcin, he 
had but a very dim notion. On the day of his 
brother's funeral he had not been able to quit his 
station, and of the stormy incident which had occurred 
then, he knew only as much as Lucy an had thought 
fit to tell him. 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. 115 

At the sound of his voice Janina turned, and before 
he had time to follow up his careless greeting with 
any other word she had left the bridge, and with two 
precipitate steps towards him, almost sprang at his 
horse's reins. 

" Stop ! wait ! turn back 1 " she panted, short of 
breath." You must not cross that stream ; you must 
go back at once — at once ! " 

" What is it ? " asked Kazimir in alarm, for Janina's 
face, as he saw it close before him, seemed to him very 
much like the face of a maniac. AVith both hands 
she was pulling at the reins, while the frightened horse 
backed snorting before her. 

" What is it ? What has happened ? Why are you 
here ? " he asked, stunned with surprise. 

" I am here to meet you ; I have waited for you 
there on that bridge ; I have waited for an hour, for 
more than an hour. I thought you would pass this 
way ; I thought you could not escape me here. Have 
you been at Wowasulka 1 '' 

" No, not to-day." 

"Go there at once ; " and with all her strength she 
tugged the horse round, despite its plunging ; while 
Kazimir, dumfoundered by her violence, and bewil- 
dered by the whole occurrence, sat passive through 
it all. 

" Why must I go to Wowasulka ? " 



116 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Something has happened there." 

" An accident ? " 

" A dreadful accident — a fearful accident ; will you 
not go ? — it may be too late. Oh, will you not go ? " 

" But I know nothing, you have told me nothing," 
said Kazimir, beginning to be seriously although 
vaguely alarmed. " Is — is it Xenia, my sister-in-law ? 
Is she ill ? " 

" No, it is not her. Have you a heart ? " 

" I think I have." 

" Save your brother, then ! Say you will save him ! " 

" Tell me how," said Kazimir, watching her with 
some misgivings. 

All this time she had been dragging the horse by 
its bridle along the path which he had just traversed. 
Now she stopped as if in sudden weakness, and 
standing beside him in the rain, she fixed her black 
and burning eyes upwards on his face. She had been 
a pretty woman when Kazimir had seen her in spring ; 
but the months that were past, and the emotions 
which they had brought, had worked fearful havoc 
with her youth and her freshness; she was almost 
ugly to look at now. 

"Tell me what I can do," said Kazimir, looking 
down at her. 

" Your brother lias got sleeping-drops," she breath- 
lessly explained. 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. 117 

" I daresay he has. Well ? " 

" He will take them to-night." 

" Very likely." 

" And they are poisoned." 

" That cannot be," was Kazimir's instinctive answer. 

" I tell you that they are. I — I — oh God, I poi- 
soned them myself ! " 

" Impossible," said Kazimir, who, the more he 
looked at her face, felt the more convinced that she 
was mad. 

She seemed to read that look through the dusk, and 
her ear detected the pity in his voice. 

" You think I am mad ! " slie cried, bursting into a 
paroxysm of convulsive though tearless sobs. "You 
think I am raving, and you will not believe me ; and 
I — oh, I counted on you. You were my last hope ; 
you might have saved it all. I waited for you. Oh 
how, how shall I make you understand me? How 
shall I make you believe me ? " 

Thus, and in still wilder words, she raved for some' 
minutes more ; and Kazimir watched the noisy exhi- 
bitions of her agony in silence. In his present bewil- 
derment there was nothing that he could say or do 
to help them both out of this inexplicable and unde- 
finable dilemma. 

When she had sobbed thus for a minute or two 
without receiving any check from Kazimir, she began 



118 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

to recognise the necessity for immediate calmness. 
As long as she continued to exhibit this violence, so 
long would he continue to doubt her sanity ; and the 
first necessity was that he should recognise that she 
was sane, and believe the story^ which she had to tell 
him. She forced back her tears, dashing her hand 
across her eyes ; she pulled the wet leaves off the 
nearest willow-bush, twistinsf them between her finsjers 
in her frantic attempts at regaining calmness. 

" Listen to me," she said, in quite another tone this 
time. " I will convince you that I am sane. Will 
you listen to me for five minutes ? " 

" Certainly," said Kazimir. 

" Tell me, then," she laid her two hands on his arm, 
— and Kazimir noticed that they were quite steady 
now, — " tell me whether you ever heard your brother 
Marcin spoken of in connection with me ? " 

" Yes," said Kazimir, reluctantly, " I have." 

" Tell me what you heard exactly." 

He looked before him and was silent. 

" I understand ; yes, you are too noble and delicate- 
minded to say it, but I understand quite well. You 
heard that he was my lover, but you heard quite 
wrong. He was my husband." 

Kazimir turned his head and looked at her care- 
fully through the dusk. 

" I was his wife for four years. He would have 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. 119 

married me openly first, but his mother refused her 
consent, and after that he married me secretly. We 
were married in the Tarajow church; but the Ta- 
rajow church has been burnt down since. You 
must have heard of how he asked his mother's con- 
sent?" 

" Yes, I heard of that," said Kazimir, still watchincj 
her face. 

" And do you believe me 1 " she asked, suspiciously. 

" Yes." 

" You believe that your brother married me ? " she 
asked again, not quite credulous. 

" Yes, I believe it." 

" I bless you for that," she cried, with another 
hysterical sob ; and seizing upon his hand, she would 
have kissed it, if he had not prevented her. " I told 
the same story to your brother in almost the same 
words, and he " 

" Yes," said Kazimir, as she broke off and stood for 
a moment with clenched hands and fixed eyes. The 
murderous mood was upon her again. 

" He did not believe me ; he scorned me ; he laughed 
and smiled ; he stroked my shoulder as though I had 
been a plaything ; he drove me wild ; he made me 
mad. I have seen that look before me for two months 
past ; I saw it to-day as I mixed the poison. Do you 
understand now about the poison ? " she asked, with a 



120 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

quick change of tone, and she clutched his arm. " Do 
you not see?" 

Kazimir was beginning to understand. " You put 
poison in the medicine ? " he asked, slowly. 

" Yes ;" she hung her head ; " but I would not 
have done it if it had been to revenge myself alone ; 
but I was mad with the thought of my child, and 
as the time came near I became desperate. I am a 
wretched, wretched woman, but I bless you for be- 
lieving me. Tell me again that it is quite true you 
believe me." 

It was quite true. Kazimir had been startled, but 
he had not doubted her word for a moment. Even 
had there not been so much terrible truth on the face 
of Janina's story, it scarcely would have occurred to 
him to doubt a woman's solemn word. Perhaps this 
propensity was but another phase of what Lucyan 
called his folly. He was, to use Heine's phrase, a 
knight who was ready to break a lance for the purity 
of every lily — a universal champion of womankind — 
an enthusiast who went about armed to the teeth, as 
ready to fight for the spotlessness of Mary Queen of 
Scots as for that of an organ-grinder's daughter who 
should happen to be wronged in his presence, — a man 
who thought that good women were perfect, indiffer- 
ent women good, and bad women unfortunate. Janina 



JANINA THROWS UP HER CARDS. 121 

having told her story to such a man as this, what 
wonder that she was believed ? more especially as her 
story happened to be true. His tone reassured her, 
and softened her perhaps ; for her tears began to flow 
now, as she stood for a minute quite silent on the 
pathway. A mournful wind was sweeping over the 
willows, and, as the wet leaves were blown backwards, 
they shivered and turned ghastly white in the dusk. 
These silent listeners seemed to grow pale and to 
tremble, hearing Janina's story. 

" This afternoon I mixed the poison," said Janina, 
after that short pause, " and this evening the drops 
were carried to Wowasulka. To-night your brother is 
to take them, and the first dose will kill him ; do you 
understand ? " 

" Yes," said Kazimir, gathering up his reins, though 
he felt still rather confused ; " I will go." 

"Thank God! you will save your brother; but — ; 
but," she stammered, " what will you say ? " 

"I do not know," said Kazimir; "but I shall not' 
betray you." 

"Ah!" she breathed a sigh of relief; even though 
she was wound up to the pitch of self-betrayal, to be 
thus shielded filled her with a sudden sense of com- 
fort and security. " But only go quick, or you may 
come too late. Quick, quick ! " Her excitement was 



122 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

beginning to break out again, now tliat tlie restraint 
was lifted. " Why do you not go on ? Why do you 
not spur your horse ? " 

He was spurring his horse already — he was gone 
while she spoke; and Janina stood on the pathway 
alone with the shuddering, whispering willows. 



123 



CHAPTER XVI. 



HIGH PLAY. 



"And now (as oft in some distempered state), 
On one nice trick depends the general fate. 
An Ace of Hearts steps forth." 

— Pope. 



Through the darkness and the rain Kazimir galloped 
all the way to Wowasulka. He had been rather slow 
to take fire ; rather reluctant, through sheer stupefac- 
tion, to give credit to Janina's story ; but now he saw 
and believed, and trembled lest he should come too 
late. Being of an imaginative temperament, there is 
no saying in what extravagant fancies he may have 
indulged during that wild ride through the rain, — 
how he may have seen himself spring from the saddle 
just in time to dash the cup from Lucyan's lip, — or 
reaching the house to find that it was already a house 
of mourning. The image of that woman's face, with 
the guilt and terror stamped upon it, and the image 
of Lucyan measuring out his fatal dose, rose alter- 
nately before his eyes. His horse was still at full 



124 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

gallop as its hoofs clattered over the garden gravel, 
and the first thing Kazimir saw was that the bedroom 
windows were dark, while there was a light in the 
drawing-room. He breathed a little more freely. If 
Lucyan was still in the drawing-room he would most 
likely not have taken his sleeping-drops yet. There 
was some hope now that he had reached aright. He 
scarcely took time to fasten his horse to the nearest 
rose-bush before he hastily entered the house. 

In the long passage within it was all pitch-dark ; 
but Kazimir, groping his way forward with his hands 
before him, had scarcely made two steps when he 
heard a whisper. 

" Is that you, Kazimir ? " 

"Yes," he said, standing still, for it was Xenia's 
voice which had spoken ; he knew it on the instant, 
as he would have known it amongst a thousand others. 
But there was a note in the crystal bell not as clear 
nor as serene as usual ; the silver flute was tuned to 
a minor key. 

" Oh, I am so glad you have come ! " she said, with a 
half sob. " Where are you ? Are you near me ? " There 
was a rustle of drapery, and in another minute there 
was a small soft hand feeling along Kazimir's wet 
coat, and all down the sleeve, till it reached his hand. 
The fingers fastened around his and clung there. " Oh, 
you must not go," she said ; " I hoped you would come 



HIGH PLAY. 125 

at last ; " and still holding him by the hand, she drew 
him on a few steps along till she reached a door. 
This she flung oj)en, and light streamed out upon 
them. 

They stood in the drawing-room ; a shaded lamp 
dimly illuminated tlie space, and revealed Xenia's 
figure. Her teeth were chattering with cold ; a shawl 
was draw^n tightly round her shoulders, and some rain- 
drops hung upon her hair. " We are alone here," she 
whispered. " Oh, I am so glad ! I have been hiding 
outside all the evening; I dare not go to bed to- 
night." 

" Where is Lucyan ? " asked Kazimir, abruptly. 

Xenia had not let go his hand yet. At his question 
she clung to it more tightly still, and throwing a curi- 
ously frightened glance over her shoulder, shrank a 
step nearer to him. 

" Do not speak so loud, please ; I do not want him 
to hear you." 

" But I must see him," said Kazimir, attempting to 
withdraw his hand. 

" JSTot now, please — not now ; later — to-morrow." 

" But where is Lucyan ? " he exclaimed, half wild 
with impatience, and still breathless with the haste 
and excitement of the last hour. 

" I don't know ; in his room, I think, writing." 

"Are you sure?" urged Kazimir, earnestly. 



12(3 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Yes, I think so ; why do you ask so much ? " 

" When did you see him last ? " 

Xenia's fine eyebrows began to knit in displeasure. 

" I wish you would not talk of Lucy an," she said, in 
a tone of vexation. " I want you to attend to me, and 
not to Lucyan." 

"He is writing in his room?" repeated Kazimir, 
scarcely having heard her last words. " Are you quite 
sure he is there ? " 

" Yes, of course I am quite sure." 
. " And he has not taken his medicine yet ? When is 
he to take it ? " 

" His medicine ? " repeated Xenia, more and more 
surprised, as well as provoked by this strange interest 
in his brother, and this still more strange indifference 
to herself. " The bottle which Aitzig Majulik brought ? 
Oh, I don't know ; before he goes to bed, I suppose." 

" Are you quite sure he is not ill ? " 

Xenia shrugged her shoulders. " He may be ill ; I 
think he must be, or he could not behave to me as 
he does. Oh, Kazimir ! I have suffered so much, so 
dreadfully ! I cannot bear it any more. A second 
night like that would kill me ; it really would. Do 
you know that I did not close my eyes last night for 
a moment — not for one single moment?" She raised 
them slowly to his face as she spoke. That terror, 
sadness, distress, who knows what, which rang in her 



HIGH PLAY. 127 

voice, was mirrored in her widely opened eyes and in 
every line of her shrinking figure. The lids were 
heavy from want of sleejj; the tender colour was 
faded from her face, almost gone from her lips ; her 
hair was ruffled and disordered. And yet she was 
almost more beautiful thus than in the smiling serenity 
of her everyday beauty. Her blue eyes, encircled by 
dark lines, seemed to have grown black in the shadow ; 
every line of her features was deepened, while in her 
hair the rain-drops sparkled like diamonds. 

Kazimir read all these signs in the dim lamp-light, 
but he read them in an indistinct and far-off' way, for 
he was still too full, mind and body, of the errand on 
which he had come ; his pulses were still flying in too 
hot a haste to let him be quite sensible of Xenia's 
look. A cloud of excitement hung before his eyes, 
dividing him from her for the moment. 

And while he stood thus, feeling her beauty, with- 
out quite realising that he did so, there was the sound 
of a distant door opening, and in the same minute 
Lucyan's step was heard in the passage. 

" He is coming in here ! " was the thought which 
struck them both, although neither of them spoke it. 
Had Kazimir been calmer, he would have been fright- 
ened by the pallor which spread over Xenia's face, 
as, with parted lips, she stood and listened to her 
husband's steps. 



128 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

But Liicyan was not coming in here. The step 
passed close to the door without pausing, — passed on 
till it reached another door, which quickly was opened 
and closed. 

That was the bedroom door, Kazimir knew from 
the sound ; and now the moment for action was surely 
come. Lucyan had in all probability gone there to 
take his sleeping-drops. The situation could scarcely 
be more urgent than it was. With a wrench Kazimir 
tore away his hand, and reached the door ; but Xenia's 
fingers closed over his again as he touched the handle ; 
and once more he was held back. 

There were tears of vexation in her eyes now as she 
raised them to his. 

" Why do you treat me so, Kazimir ? why will you 
go when I ask you to stay ? I have so much to tell 
you ; I want to ask your advice : why will you go 
away ? " 

" Because there is something that I have to do." 

" Cannot you wait a little longer ? I am sure there 
is no hurry ; I wish you were not so unkind ! " 

" But I cannot wait," said Kazimir, in an agony. 
"Every minute is fearfully precious. Let me go, I 
entreat you." 

" Not unless you tell me what it is," she said, with 
a half-sweet, half-pettish smile breaking through her 
tears. ' 



HIGH PLAY. 129 

" It is a darjger, — a great danger, — and I can avert 
it if you let me go." 

"A danger?" her eyes dilated in alarm. " What is 
it about ? " 

" It is about Lucy an." 
" Go on." 

" There has been an attempt, — no, I mean there has 
been a mistake : there is poison in his medicine ! " 

" Poison ! " Xenia's pale face lost its last trace of 
colour. 

"Yes; but it is not yet too late: it only needs one 
word to save him, — only you must let me go." 
'' What will you do if I let you go ? " 
" I will save him, of course ; have I not told you 
so?" 

"Yes." Her eyes, wide and distended, were fixed 
upon his face ; she was still as pale as before, but her 
tears had been suddenly checked. 

" And if I do not let you go ? " Unconsciously as she 
said it, her fingers tightened upon his sleeve. 

" It would be too late then," said Kazimir, startled 
at the tone of her voice. 
" Too late to save him ? " 
" Yes." 

" And he would die then ? " she asked, below her 
breath, shuddering at the word even while she said it. 
" Yes, I fear so." 

VOL. in. I 



130 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" And if he should die ? " she said, very slowly; and 
at that moment — dangerous, terrible moment — their 
eyes met full. 

She stared at him some seconds longer, and then 
she burst into tears. 

" Do not go," she sobbed, with her face in her hands. 
" Do not go to him ; stay here." 

The words were clear ; yet Kazimir doubted whether 
he heard aright. Gazing at her, he stood rooted to the 
spot, and her sobbed-out words poured upon his ear. 

" I can bear it no longer ; I hate him, — I hate 
him ! " It was by far the strongest expression which 
Xenia had used in her life, — as this burst of tears also 
was the thing nearest approaching a passion of which 
this sweet and flower-like woman had ever been guilty. 
But even in the midst of it she remained sweet and 
flower-like still. She stood and sobbed, frightened at 
herself, — frightened at the words she had used, yet 
not withdrawing them; terrified at the thought be^ 
trayed, yet not disowning it. What had she said? 
She had not meant it,— that is to say, yes ; at least 
she meant that she did not know ; only she was very 
miserable — miserable. 

Kazimir, shocked and distressed — pained that so 
soft a creature should have been capable of so hard a 
thought, — stood by and listened. From the moment 
of Janina's confession and entreaty, his haste had 



HIGH PLAY. 131 

been so great that he had never paused to analyse the 
situation. The necessity of saving his brother had 
been the only thing he saw ; consequences and possi- 
bilities had had no place in his mind. But Xenia's 
words, — more still, her look — that glance between 
them, — had startled him into perfect consciousness. 

Ay, what if Lucyan should die ? What then ? 
Dimly he began to understand what would be then. 
The fire which he had caught from Janina seemed to 
go out suddenly. Was it Xenia's tears that quenched 
it? 

Her beauty — indistinct and far off a minute ago — 
became real and close again to his fully awakened 
senses. He stood and looked upon the graceful figure, 
— the rounded shoulders that heaved with sobs — the 
beautifully drooped head upon which the rain-drops 
shone ; and as he listened to her narrative, the urgency 
of the moment, the danger and the hurry, all gave way 
to a sense of burning indignation. 

" I thought he would strike me," she said ; " I thought 
he would kill me ; he glared at me so with his dreadful 
eyes ; and oh, Kazimir, he called me a fool ! " 

" Is that true ? " asked Kazimir ; and his right hand 
clenched. 

" It is true, — it is quite true." 

" He treated you like that ? " 

" Yes ; and that was not the worst : he said that — 



132 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

oh, it is SO dreadful! — he said I was losing my 
looks ! I cannot bear it any more,— I have been hid- 
ing from him all the evening. Oh, Kazimir ! dear 
Kazimir ! what am I to do ? Can you not help me ? 
Can you not take me away ? I should be safe with 
you!" 

Her frightened eyes were fixed upwards on his face ; 
and once more her hand sought his. He knew every 
one of her glances, and each of her gestures, by heart ; 
he had studied their grace and their charm contin- 
ually; but this glance and this gesture he did not 
know. There was something in her eyes, wild and 
tear-blurred as they were, which had never before 
been there. That look he had never seen, — not in the 
salt-mine, not in the sledge-drive, not on the day when 
he had given her back the flower. This was some- 
thing beyond coquetry, — something beyond flirtation. 
This he had once hoped for as the greatest prize in 
life, and despaired of obtaining, and wept for, because 
it was stolen from him. , 

The weeks and months past had worked this change : 
Lucyan's sneers had worked it almost more than Kazi- 
mir's love. Lucyan had succeeded at last in wearying 
out even her meekness. She had borne her slavery as 
few slaves do. She might have forgiven his burst of 
fury ; she might have digested the insult of being called 
a fool; but to be told that she was losing her looks had 



HIGH PLAY. 133 

lashed even her gentle spirit into rebellion. She was 
wound up to the highest pitch of passion possible to 
her. So far as she could hate, she hated her husband ; 
so far as she could love, she loved his brother. 

For Kazimir it was a terrible moment. There was 
a mingling of joy and horror in the discovery he had 
made. Like a pair of foolish children, they had played 
with fire, and this moment was their punishment. 
She loved him, and was clinging to him for protection, 
— was imploring him to deliver her. And it was so 
easy to do so : there was but that one life between 
them ; a few minutes and that life might be no more. 
Was not that poor distracted Janina perhaps but the 
instrument of Providence ? How could the man de- 
serve to live who had called Xenia a fool? Impos- 
sible ! Kazimir's heart cried out for revenge, — revenge 
for his cheated love, revenge for his stolen birthright. 
It was the destroyer of his happiness whom he was 
asked to save. Oh, it was too much ! this could not 
be justice. 

Such thoughts come to good men as easily as to bad 
ones ; and good men listen to them sometimes, and 
sometimes good men fall. For we are so weak, even 
the strongest of us ; and the greatest, after all, so very 
small. 

To gain back by a single stroke all that he had lost ! 
A tempting demon whispered it ; and Kazimir listened, 



134 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

drinking in the sweet temptation. He stood there, 
hesitating, bewildered ; torn by a hundred distracting 
thoughts; puzzled by a hundred doubts, which were 
new and strange to him ; dazzled by the betra3^al of 
Xenia's love ; and surely — oh yes, surely — made happy 
by it. That something within him was jarred, and had 
been jarred since, in her first outburst, she called on 
him not to go to Lucy an, he indistinctly felt. Did she 
now want him to go? Did she want him to stay? 
She stood there, behind the impenetrable shield of her 
tears — not asking him to stay, nor telling him to go, 
— not speaking, only weeping unanswerable and un- 
answering floods. Such floods, even wept by angels, 
are often more perilous than the most demoniacal 
temptation. 

Ah, Kazimir, Kazimir ! honourable man though you 
be, was it Honour alone which gave you the victory 
at this moment ? Was it Yirtue alone which made the 
dark cloud to pass ? Or was it that, even while you 
gazed and listened, the temptation, unknown to your- 
self, unacknowledged by you, was weakening ? 

How it was Kazimir did not know; but he found 
his strength again, and dashed from the room. 



135 



CHAPTEK XVII. 



A MISDEAL. 



For 'tis a truth well known to most, 
That whatsoever thing is lost, 
We seek it, ere it come to light, 
In every cranny but the right." 

— COWPER. 



As he flung open the bedroom door, Kazimir saw 
Lucyan standing beside a further table, with his back 
turned. He looked round slowly as his brother 
entered. 

" Thank heavens ! " was Kazimir's first word. 

" You here, Kazimir ? " 

" Where is your medicine ? " asked Kazimir, not calm 
enough to attempt any explanation. 

" Do you know what o'clock it is ? " 

"No," said Kazimir, rather wildly; "it may be 
midnight for aught I know, or mid-day. Where is 
your medicine?" 

" That is exactly what / want to know," said Lucyan, 
irritably, " and exactly what no one can tell me." 



136 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" I do not understand you " 

" I daresay not ; as little as I can understand aunt 
Eobertine. What on earth makes that cursed old 
woman shuffle away her keys into infernally mys- 
terious holes, which she cannot herself trace an hour 
afterwards, far surpasses my comprehension." 

" But that is not the question," said Kazimir, sur- 
prised at this tone and language, of which he had 
never before known his brother to be guilty. " What 
has the key got to do with your medicine ? " 

" What have you got to do with my medicine, if I 
may ask ? " 

"Everything on earth. You have not taken it 
yet?" 

" I have not had the chance." 

" But it is in the house ? " 

Lucyan shrugged his shoulders. " Que sais-je ? It 
reached the house, at all events." 

"By AitzigMajulik?" 

" Yes. How do you happen to know ? " asked Lu- 
cyan, staring at his brother. 

" By a chance. And where is it now ? " 

"In the jam-cupboard, I believe," said Lucyan, 
grimly; "but where the key of the jam-cupboard is 
you need not ask me. Aunt Eobertine has juggled it 
away, according to her invariable habit. Every key of 
every cupboard in the house has been daily hidden, I 



A MISDEAL. 137 

believe ; but I shall put a stop to this," said Lucyan, 
sternly. "That old woman is becoming worse than 
useless ; her memory is failing her. I should have 
taken my sleeping-drops long ago if it had not been 
for aunt Eobertine." 

" Dear aunt Eobertine ! " broke out Kazimir, with 
a burst of unexpected affection. "Dear, good aunt 
Eobertine ! I never thought that I should live to bless 
her eccentricities." 

Lucyan was watching his brother curiously. " When 
you have quite done your raptures about aunt Eober- 
tine, I suppose you will tell me what you are here 
for." 

" I will tell you now : I want you not to take that 
medicine." 

Lucyan gave a faint smile. " Are you afraid of my 
health suffering ? How considerate, mon frere ! " 

" Yes — no," stammered Kazimir, reddening. "I want 
you to promise that you will not take it." 

" Eeally ? And what am I to do with it, pray ? " 

" Throw it away," said Kazimir, without reflecting. 

" And your reasons ? They are excellent, no doubt." 

" I cannot give them." 

" That is a pity," said Lucyan, drily ; but in his eyes 
suspicion gleamed. "They would have been worth 
hearing, no doubt." 

Kazimir gnawed at his under lip, not trusting himself 



138 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

to speak. There rushed over him a violent repul- 
sion — a strong disgust of this man whose life he had 
come to save, and who had treated two women as 
Lucyan had treated Janina and Xenia. He had long 
ago felt that he hated his brother ; but he had never 
plainly told himself so until to-day. Angry words 
crowded to his lips ; old wrongs awoke up again and 
urged him to speak ; but he dared not trust himself, 
for Janina's secret was upon his mind, and he feared 
by an imprudent word to betray her. 

Lucyan did not take his eyes from his brother's face, 
but stood gently passing the comb through his hair. 
Kazimir had never before noticed, but at this moment 
he noticed, that the hair about Lucyan's temples was 
beginning to turn grey. His face, as he stood now 
with the lamp-light upon it, looked haggard and worn ; 
the eyes were sunken, the habitual pallor intensified. 

"It is no use asking me questions," said Kazimir, 
after that pause ; " but there has been some mistake 
about the medicine — you had better not take it, it 
might " 

"Disagree with me?" finished Lucyan, with fine 
interrogation. 

" Yes, I am afraid so." 

" So you evidently are. And the mistake ? Do you 
happen to know who made it ? " 

" I do not know — the bearer, I suppose," said Kazi- 



A MISDEAL. 139 

mir, steadily ; feeling at this moment only the necessity 
of shielding Janina at any price. 

"AitzigMajulik?" 

" I daresay ; I do not know ; it is no use asking me." 

" Apparently not. Are you going now ? " 

Kazimir was going, for he could no longer bear to 
watch the sneer upon Lucyan's thin lips. 

" Yes, I am going ; but I shall be back to-morrow. 
I promised her, — that is to say, I shall probably be 
here." 

"Exactly; you will happen to be passing by the 
merest chance. Wowasulka lies so very conveniently 
on your way ; only an insignificant ditour of a couple 
of miles. Oh, I understand quite well ; good-night, 
raon frere ! " 

Lucyan stood alone in his bedroom — thinking. 
So there had been a mistake about his medicine, had 
there ? The medicine which Aitzig Majulik had 
brought. 

That mistake and its exact nature took a strong 
hold upon Lucyan's mind. It was an interesting 
problem ; all the more interesting because it could not 
be solved to-night. It appeared that even next day 
the solution was not immediately to be had ; for 
morning came, and the forenoon wore on, and the key 
of the jam-cupboard remained invisible. 

All the interest and energy of the household seemed 



140 BEGCxAE MY NEIGHBOUE. 

to have become concentrated on that one little bit of 
steel. A general and perpetual search was carried on. 
Carpets were lifted, dresses were shaken out, boxes 
were emptied. Every vase was peered into, and every 
drawer was opened. A stranger entering the house 
unannounced would have been puzzled to explain the 
variety of strange positions and wholly unaccountable . 
movements in which the inmates were indulging. 
Everybody walked about armed with a stick, or a 
broom, or a parasol, with which they poked into dis- 
tant corners and stirred up dust ; everybody got upon 
chairs to explore the lofty tops of presses, and came 
down again choked with more dust. Occasionally was 
to be seen a person in a position entirely horizontal, 
vainly attempting to gain an underview of a wardrobe 
or a chest of drawers, and regaining the perpendicular, 
red and breathless, and wrapped in clouds of dust. 
Dust, nothing but the eternal dust ! 

Should the key not be found before evening, Lu- 
cyan had resolved to send for a locksmith. Most men 
would have sent for one at once ; but it always went 
against the grain with Lucyan to admit that he was 
baffled in any undertaking. In the meantime he had 
gone to the extent of offering a florin's reward to 
whichever servant should bring him the key. 

What Kobertine suffered during this long-drawn- 
out torture, the words of ordinary language are far too 



A MISDEAL. Ul 

feeble to describe. To her it was all thumbscrew and 
rack. Every drawer that was opened wrung her heart, 
every single poke that was made by an exploring 
broomstick seemed to strike her mystery-loving breast. 
She began by fighting for each spot in turn, but soon 
had to yield before Lucyan's determination. Mournful 
and desperate she followed the searchers about from 
room to room and from corner to corner, watching the 
devastation of all her most cherished sanctuaries, as 
a mother watches the murder of her children. And 
they were murdered in vain. Alas ! she knew that 
neither in the curtains nor under the carpets was the 
key of the jam-cupboard to be found. She knew that 
the key of the storeroom was under the sofa-cushion, 
and the key of the larder in a hole in the wall ; but 
it was in vain that she questioned her overtaxed 
memory as to the hiding-place of the jam-cupboard 
key. Well might she feel mournful, for Lucyan had 
hinted that henceforward all keys should remain in 
his own keeping ; and what would life be to Eobertine 
without keys ? And what would keys be without 
hiding-places ? 

Lucyan sat at table with a dark cloud upon his 
brow; and Xenia sat opposite to him in unbroken 
silence. 

They were just rising from table, when Xenia started 
and flushed at the sound of horse-hoofs on the gravel. 



142 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" Ah yes," said Lucyan, with a sharp glance at his 
wife — the first he had given her to-day — " he promised 
that he would come again." 

" Is the key found ? " was Kazimir's first word. 

"No," said Lucyan, shortly; "and oblige me by 
shutting the door ; I never had a taste for draughts." 

Lucyan shivered as he spoke ; and yet it was a mild 
October day, grey and dull, but as warm and still as a 
day in June. Kazimir said as much, and added that 
the evening was clearing for a glorious sunset. " Come 
into the garden," he said, " and you will see it." 

Lucyan declined the garden. He was chilly and 
restless ; he wandered away by himself; and, still 
looking about him in a sort of hopeless and aimless 
way for the lost key, he entered the drawing-room. 
Neither of the other two followed him ; he did not 
notice this until through the drawing-room window he 
caught sight of his brother and his wife standing on 
the gravel- walk. Trappisto was beside them, earnestly 
endeavouring to detach the root of a blue aster plant 
from the earth. 

Every flower was heavy with yesterday's rain ; but 
to-night there was a burst of brilliant light in the 
west, which turned all the drops of water into drops 
of gold. The sharp-edged clouds, gathering together, 
began to drift away in purple banks. 

The garden bore a look of neglect, slight, but yet 



A MISDEAL. 143 

unusual. The flowers, beaten down by the rain, had 
not been tied up ; many of them lay with their 
neglected faces pressed to the damp earth. • The 
rotting dahlia-heads had not been clipped off, the 
branch of a rose-bush trailed to the ground. And if 
there was neglect hinted at in the foreground, there 
was in the background outspoken destruction; for 
there, beside the forest -edge, the labourers were at 
work, blasting the rocks and clearing the space for 
the railway. 

Lucyan turned away shivering from it all. He 
hated the clouds, and the sunshine which was chasing 
them away ; he hated his wife and his brother ; he 
almost hated his railway. He hated the world and 
all things in it. 

" Warm and mild ! " he said aloud, bitterly. " Kazi- 
mir calls the day warm and mild. I say that it is 
cold and sharp. I am in a cold fever, I think ; my 
hands are like blocks of ice," and mechanically he 
held them towards the porcelain stove. " It is time 
to light it," he murmured. The stoves at Wowasulka 
were rarely lit before November ; " but, after all," 
thought Lucyan, as he stooped and opened the brass 
door, "I am rich enough to buy wood." 

A heap of grey ashes lay within ; and probably it 
was only from the habit acquired to-day of sounding 
every corner, that Lucyan touched the ashes with his 



144 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

finger-tips. The grey heap crumbled under his hand, 
and he felt something hard beneath. In the next 
minute he had drawn out a large key. He looked it 
all over carefully, and assured himself that this was 
the key of the jam-cupboard. 

''I have saved a florin," was his first instinctive 
thought; he need reward no servant, and pay na 
locksmith now. It is economical to find one's lost 
things one's self. 

Having carefully closed the brass door, Lucyan 
stood for a minute clutching the recovered key 
tightly, while an ugly look of cunning dawned in 
his eyes. One glance out of the window showed him 
Kazimir and Xenia, with their backs safely turned. 
Leaving the drawing-room softly, he walked across 
the passage to the dining-room ; there were no ser- 
vants within sight or hearing. 

Quite gently the key turned in the lock, and 
with a subdued groan the cupboard - door swung 
open. 

Eows of glass jam-pots stood before Lucyan, labelled 
"gooseberry" and "currant" in Eobertine's angular 
writing. On the "shelf of honour" stood the rose- 
jam, which Xenia always told strangers she had 
made herself. The contents of the lowest shelf were 
more miscellaneous ; and here, between a mustard- 
jar and a bottle of extra fine wddki, there stood a 



A MISDEAL. 145 

smaller bottle with a gold paper round the cork, and 
labelled " sleeping-drops." 

" I have it now/' said Lucyan to himself ; " at last 
I have my sleeping-drops." 

He locked the cupboard again very carefully, and 
put the key in his pocket ; and keeping the bottle in 
his hand, he held it to the light. 

" Ten drops on sugar, nightly," was written on the 
label. Having read the directions, he turned the 
bottle round. The fluid it contained was of a deep 
yellow colour. Next he uncorked and smelt it. The 
smell was unusual and disagreeable. 

" Did I say that the air was cold and sharp ? " 
thought Lucyan ; " no, it is hot and burning. I shall 
not have the porcelain stove lit now." 

He stood with the uncorked bottle in his hand, 
hesitating as to what he should do. He put it down 
on the table at last, and walked to the door to listen ; 
then walked to the window to see if he were not 
watched. No one was looking this way. Kazimir 
and Xenia still stood with their backs turned ; and 
beside them Trappisto was still busy among the 
asters, and with earthy snout and mud - encrusted 
paws, was revelling in his favourite pursuit. Broken 
flowers lay around him. 

" I wonder," reflected Lucyan, " whether Trappisto 
would like a lump of sugar 1 " 

VOL. IIL K 



146 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

An idea had struck him, and he thought it was 
good. If there had been no "mistake" about the 
sleeping-drops, there would be no harm to Trappisto. 
And if there had been a, mistake — why, Lucy an had 
hated the dog for long— at least then the blue asters 
would lose their persecutor, and there would be no 
more holes dug in the garden-beds. Ah, Trappisto ! 
poor Trappisto ! in your blessed ignorance, is it indeed 
your grave which you have been digging all summer ? 

" Trappisto ! Trappisto ! " called Lucy an, opening 
the window, and putting out his head. 

It was the first time that Kazimir had heard his 
brother call to the dog, and, somewhat surprised, he 
looked round. Whenever Lucyan did take notice of 
Trappisto, the notice usually came in the shape of a 
kick, or of a hunt with a rake round the garden. 

" What do you want, Lucyan ? " he asked. 

" I want your dog here for a minute, to clear a 
plate ; send him in." 

Trappisto was as surprised as his master; but 
whether the word "plate" conveyed some distinct 
impression to his mind, or whether there were other 
pleasant reminiscences connected with the dining- 
room, at any rate Trappisto abandoned the asters 
with alacrity, cleared a flower-bed, and leapt in by 
the open window. 

There was a bowl of sugar standing on the dining- 



A MISDEAL. 147 

table. Lucyan selected a large piece, and began to 
drop out the sleeping-draught. It was only now that 
he became aware of the excitement which governed 
him, for his hand was shaking, so that he had to 
pause. Upon each of his cheeks a scarlet spot flamed. 
He waited for a minute to recover himself, and then 
began to drop out the medicine again. This time 
he succeeded in steadying his hand. 

" One, two, three," he counted up to ten ; and all 
the time Trappisto stood in front of him and watched 
the process impatiently. 

"Ten," said Lucyan; and he looked at the label 
once more, for he meant to give the medicine a fair 
trial. Then he laid the sugar on the floor, a yard 
from Trappisto's nose; he was always fastidious in 
his tastes, and he objected to letting his fingers come 
in contact with that moist and muddy snout. 

Trappisto, although apparently somewhat mystified 
by the colour of the sugar, did not hesitate for long, 
but trotted forward, bent his head, glared at it greedily, 
and in the next moment it crunched between his 
teeth. 

As he munched, the dog gazed up at Lucyan with 
a look of earnest gratitude, a sort of affectionate 
reverence, which he always felt towards any one who 
ever gave him anything to eat. 

He stood in the same attitude after he had swal- 



148 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

lowed the sugar for nearly a minute; then he gave a 
sort of shudder, and almost before Lucyan had time 
to notice any change, Trappisto staggered, and fell 
upon his side. 

There was not a sound or a groan, only the con- 
vulsive tremble still ran over him as he lay. His legs 
stretched out slowly, his skin twitched once more, 
then seemed to stiffen in its wrinkles. He lay there 
stretched and quite motionless. 

In less than a minute this had all passed. Lucyan 
still held the bottle in his hand, for he had never 
moved his eyes from Trappisto. He bent down now 
and looked at him, then touched him ; then with two 
fastidious fingers lifted one of the yellow paws. It 
offered no resistance : the dog was quite dead already. 

When he stood up straight again Lucyan's face was 
deadly pale. 

" The sleeping-drops," he said, just above his breath 
— " my sleeping-drops." He held by the edge of the 
table to keep himself straight ; for a blue film seemed 
slowly to be creeping over his eyes, and in this sud- 
den fit of giddiness he could see neither the floor nor 
Trappisto. 

Very slowly the giddiness passed, and his clearness 
of sight returned. The door had opened in the mean- 
time, though he had not heard it, and Kazimir was 
standing in the room. 



A MISDEAL. 149 

" Liicyan ! " he cried, — " Lucyan, who has done 
this?" 

" I did it," said Lucyan. 

" This is cruelty, base cruelty," and Kazimir stooped 
over Trappisto. " You have taken a good deal from 
me, Lucyan," he added, between his teeth. " Do you 
not think you might have left me my dog ? " 

Kazimir's voice was low ; but as he glanced up at 
Lucyan there was a dangerous light in his eye. 

" I gave him my sleeping-drops," said Lucyan, speak- 
ing quietly, although the sickly pallor had not left his 
face. 

"Your sleeping - drops ! " echoed Kazimir, with a 
hard laugh, and he stood up and faced his brother. 
''And this is the work of your sleeping-drops? and 
that is why you look so pale ? Does it surprise you, 
Lucyan, that it should have come to this at last? 
Does it not surprise you rather that it should not 
have come to this long ago?" 

" Why ? " asked Lucyan, slowly. 

" Does it surprise you that you should have ene- 
mies ? " 

" Enemies ? " Lucyan repeated the word suspici- 
ously. " What do you know of my enemies ? " 

" More than of your friends. Have you a friend, 
Lucyan ? Have you one single friend in all this wide 
world ? " 



150 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

'' I don't know," said Lucyan, in a strange voice ; 
lie was gazing down at the bottle lie held. 

Kazimir had stepped up close to his brother now ; 
his eyes flamed as he spoke. 

" I am your brother, Lucyan, and most men have a 
friend in their brother, even if they have no other ; 
but have you been a brother to me? I am not as 
clever as you, but I am clever enough to see that I 
have been duped by you all through life. By God ! 
Lucyan, do you know that last night I was tempted 
to let you take the poison? I do not know what 
saved you: it was not any love of mine." 

Lucyan knew what had saved him better than 
Kazimir — his brother's honesty ; for it is a great mis- 
take to suppose that because a man has no honesty 
himself, he must necessarily not know how to value 
it in others. It is only the villain on a small scale 
who does not dare to trust to his neighbour, because 
he knows that he is not to be trusted himself; and 
Lucyan was not a villain on a small scale. He did 
full justice to his brother's qualities; he recognised 
his largeness of heart and mind, his simple and 
straightforward nature. He even, to a certain extent, 
admired him as a figure of artistic merits, a piece of 
unpractical quixotry. He admired him, and — he 
pitied him; A grain of pity always flavoured his 
feelings towards Kazimir; but this sudden violence 



A MISDEAL. 151 

startled him out of it. Just now lie wished that 
Kazimir would not quarrel with him — he had enemies 
enough already. 

But Kazimir's blood was up ; the long restraint was 
burst at last. His reproaches poured hot and thick 
upon Lucyan. 

" What you could take from me you have taken ; 
I have nothing left now but the sword which I have 
gained for myself. You stole from me the woman I 
loved; and how have you used her? what have you 
made of her ? Has one brother ever treated another 
as you have treated me ? Oh, Lucyan, can such 
things indeed be done and go unpunished'?" 

Lucyan's eyes were on the floor ; he listened with 
a face almost stupidly apathetic, only he could not 
meet Kazimir's fiery gaze. He was afraid of his elder 
brother to-day. 

Kazimir paused and breathed deeply. 

" I have spoken at last ; I wish that I had spoken 
months ago. I hate myself for having come to your 
house and put on the face of a friend, when in my 
heart I felt the bitterness of an enemy." 

" Why, then, did you not stay away ? " asked 
Lucyan, with a faint, a very faint, reflection of one 
of his former sneers. 

" You shall not ask me that again," cried Kazimir, 
impetuously. " This is my last visit. I shall not 



152 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

trouble your house again, Lucyan/'— his fingers were 
on the door-handle. 

" Wait," said Lucyan, and he put out his hand 
blindly, as if groping in the dark— he was afraid ot 
letting Kazimir go away in anger — " wait," he said, 
smiling feebly ; " we need not quarrel again, need 
we?" 

It was too late now. Kazimir struck aside the 
hand which Lucyan held towards him, and, opening 
the door, he sprang from the room. 

He was still so hot with anger that he could not be 
sure of the words he had said, nor feel certain whether, 
in his heat, he had not betrayed Janina's secret. In 
vain, as he rode homewards, did he put the question 
to himself. 

But he need not have feared for Janina; it was 
not of Janina that Lucyan was thinking, as, left to 
himself, he began to pace the room. The short but 
stormy interview just passed had scarcely torn his 
mind from the train of thought which it had before 
been following. He seized back on it again at the 
very moment that the door fell shut. 

The thought which shaped itself in Lucyan's mind 
was this : " The medicine was poisoned, and it was 
Aitzig Majulik who hr ought the medicine to the house." 



153 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



CARDS BETRAYED. 



" Sir, he's a good dog, and a fair dog. Can there be more said ? He is good 
and Mv."— The Merry Wives of Windsor. 



There was one more hole dug in the garden ; but it 
was dug for Trappisto, and not by him. 

The yellow dog was buried under a rose-bush. Lu- 
cy an made no objection — in fact, he believed that it 
was good for the bush; and Kazimir, once at home 
again, discovered that he was more than ever a lonely 
man. He missed the weak-minded wag of tail, and the 
mournful upward glance, to which he had been used 
so long : he turned away from the straw-mat by the 
stove as from a painful sight ; every mark of a muddy 
paw on the boards served to lower his spirits. Trap- 
pisto had been an exceptionally quiet dog — and he 
had not been an exceptionally big one, — and yet the 
room had never looked so empty, nor appeared so 
silent, as it did to-night. 

Next morning — his toilet being still incomplete — 



154 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUE. 

Kazimir was startled by a violent altercation outside, 
and opening the door, found himself confronted by 
Aitzig Majulik, leading two dogs, each by a string, 
and attempting to force his way past the indignant 
soldier-servant. 

" What do you want ? " asked Kazimir, sternly. 

" To wish a good morning to the noble captain," 
answered Aitzig, ducking his head. 

" Leave me alone," said Kazimir ; " do you hear ? " 

" Perfectly ; Aitzig hears perfectly," said the factor, 
at the same time quietly making his way into the 
room, though the process was not free from difficulties, 
as the two dogs were pulling him in different directions. 

" What is all this about ? " inquired Kazimir, star- 
ing with an air of the most supreme disgust from the 
vulgar and rough-haired brov/n dog to the dazzling 
white poodle which Aitzig led. " Are you setting up 
a caravan, or do you think I am ? " 

Aitzig was vastly amused at the notion. The noble 
captain always did say such amusing things, — always 
was so witty and agreeable in conversation. Aitzig 
was truly grateful to see some cheerfulness remaining 
after so sad a loss; he had feared for the captain's 
spirits, &c., &c. 

" W^hat do you mean ? " asked Kazimir. 

" I mean the sad bereavement which the noble gen- 
tleman has suffered in losing his yellow dog." 



CARDS BETRAYED. 155 

" How do yoii know that 1 " asked Kazimir, sliarpl}^ 

" Where is the thing that Aitzig does not know ? 
and which is the thing that Aitzig could not do? 
Does the noble Pan think that Aitzig's head has lain 
on his pillow to-night?" He paused for a moment, 
with his hand uplitted and his body thrown back ; but 
receiving no answer to the dramatically-put question, 
proceeded without one. 

" No ; Aitzig's head has scarcely touched his pillow. 
It was thus I spoke to myself : I said, the yellow dog 
is dead, the gracious captain is solitary ; he will need 
a companion to replace the one he has lost. Before 
daylight I was up, and going from place to place ; for 
I would bring to the noble captain none but dogs of 
the highest breeding and the most irreproachable con- 
duct ; " and here Aitzig, noticing that the largest and 
most vulgar of his charges was feasting upon a boot, 
quietly administered a warning kick. The poodle, 
being young, and not having yet acquired that perfect 
steadiness of legs which is indispensable to canine 
dignity, had sat down on the instant of entering the 
room, and lay on the floor like a heap of jeweller's 
cotton, evidently not intending to rise until compelled 
to do so. 

Then, while Kazimir, half provoked and half amused, 
turned his back and went on shaving, Aitzig launched 
on a double panegyric concerning his two canine ^:)rc>- 



156 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Uges, puffing out now one, now the other, with all the 
eloquence at his command. They were simple prodi- 
gies, and exceptional creations, — altogether different 
from any other animal that went by the name of 
dog. Would the gracious Pan be so kind as to say 
whether he had ever seen anything to approach the 
quality of that poodle's wool, or anything to rival the 
intelligence of his eye ? He should be infinitely obliged 
if Kazimir would just name any other factor who was 
in the position to produce such a poodle. In fact, 
there was nothing to which he could fitly compare 
that poodle, unless it were the brown quadruped, 
which Aitzig dignified by the name of otter-hound. 

" There is not an otter in the country/' said Kazi- 
mir, savagely; "and if there were any I would not 
hunt them." 

Ah ! the noble captain preferred the poodle ? Well, 
perhaps he was right. That was a dog that was at 
once companion and friend, protector, and almost coun- 
sellor. And to think that so much intelligence and 
good feeling — all that fidelity, and all that mass of 
jeweller's cotton — was to be purchased for five florins ! 

By this time Kazimir was feeling more provoked 
than amused. Had he been in his usual mood, he 
would have cut the matter short by turning the Jew 
and his dogs out of the door ; but he was far from 
being in his usual spirits. " Leave me alone," he said, 



CARDS BETRAYED. 157 

wearily, and with a half sigh he sat down at the table, 
turning his back again to Aitzig. 

Aitzig could not see his face ; but he had heard the 
tone, and his fine and practised ear had caught the 
shade of sadness — the lonely expression of a solitary 
man. No matter that it was only the loss of a dog 
which had called it out ; the expression was genuine, 
and Aitzig marked it. 

Long ago his eyes had swept round the room, merely 
from the instinct of constant habit, and he had read 
every sign aright. 

" I will stake my faith that the poodle would suit 
the noble captain," he began again, softly, after a 
minute. "Companionship is what the gracious Pan 
requires, and this poodle would afford more com- 
panionship than a whole regiment of comrades. 
Comrades ? did I say comrades ? Why, what wife, 
even, could be more devoted and faithful than this 
incomparable animal ? And a man must have either 
a good wife or a good dog, noble Pan, if he is to live 
happily." 

Kazimir made an impatient movement. A violent 
answer would have appeared much more hopeful to 
Aitzig Majulik. He would have shown resignation 
if Kazimir had abused him — he would have felt en- 
couragement if Kazimir had expelled him. That 
would have looked like business at least. But this 



158 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

silence and this apathy struck dismay to his heart ; 
his flow of eloquence ran dry. Silent and irresolute, 
he stood and gazed at the floor, while the two dogs 
fell asleep by his side. 

It might have been something in the attitude of Ka- 
zimir or the stamp of the room, or it might have been 
something in his own words, that put his busy mind on 
another train of thought. It was clear that Kazimir's 
heart was hardened against the charms of both poodle 
and otter-hound, and at the same time it was clear 
that he was oppressed by solitude. It went straight 
against all Aitzig's principles to leave the room with- 
out carrying with him at least the hope of a future 
bargain. He began to bethink himself of another cue. 

It was some weeks now since, in his mental cup- 
board, he had locked away an article which lay there 
waiting for its chance in life. That chance he had 
almost despaired of finding ; but had it not come 
now? Aitzig could see no better, at any rate. He 
had read Kazimir's state of mind far more accurately 
than Kazimir had read it himself, and he thought that 
the soil was ready for the seed. A man, generally, 
would not be likely to pay for the information that 
a penniless woman was in love with him ; but Aitzig, 
with infinite scorn, told himself that this was just the 
sort of man who would marry a woman for no other 
reason but that she was poor, and unhappy. 



CARDS BETRAYED. 159 

When he had coughed several times, and shuffled 
about for a minute, Aitzig spoke. 

" The gracious Pan will not look at the dogs ? " 

" No," said Kazimir, shortly. 

" And the gracious Pan will continue to live thus — 
alone ? " 

There was no answer. 

Aitzig repeated his shuffle. 

" It is a solitary life to lead, if Aitzig may venture 
to speak." 

" What of that ? " asked Kazimir, haughtily, struck 
by the significance of the factor's tone. 

" The gracious Pan lives thus quite alone, without 
any one beside him ; and the Pan is young, and hand- 
some, and accomplished." 

'•'And amiable, and good-tempered, and witty," fin- 
ished Kazimir, beginning to lose patience ; " and 
nothing else besides, are you sure? Do you think 
that is quite enough?" 

It was not near enough, according to Aitzig's opin- 
ion; but refraining from a further list, he rapidly 
sidled in another observation. " Most men of that 
age think of marrying. Many is the lady, no doubt, 
who would be proud to call the gracious captain her 
husband." 

" If you have nothiug better to do than to sing my 
praises," said Kazimir, " you had better go." 



160 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

But Aitzig had something better to do : he quickly 
leapt from generalities to particulars. 

" If," he suggested — " if old Aitzig happened to have 
heard that there was somebody — that there was a lady 
who •" 

"What are you saying?" Kazimir raised his head 
quickly. 

" That there was a lady — attached to the noble cap- 
tain — deeply attached." 

" Silence ! " said Kazimir, almost violently ; for he 
instantly thought of Xenia. The blood mounted to 
his temples. 

The Jew was puzzled. Had he guessed after all ? 
Another step would show. 

"A lady," he cautiously proceeded, "whose happi- 
ness the gracious Pan could complete to-morrow by 
making her his wife." 

The flush on Kazimir's face began to fade. This 
could not be Xenia. His curiosity was aroused, and 
imprudently he put the question : " Who is it you are 
speaking of?" 

Having led him skilfully thus far, and tempted him 
to betray curiosity, Aitzig as skilfully drew back. He 
raised his ten fingers in artless surprise. 

The name of the lady ? Was that what the gracious 
Pan desired ? How could it be right of Aitzig to be- 
tray a lady's secret ? But, on the other hand, if the 



CARDS BETRAYED. 161 

captain were really anxious, and especially if he did 
not mind going to the expense of some slight remuner- 
ation to Aitzig for his trouble, it might not be abso- 
lutely impossible to come to terms. 

Aitzig's drift was clear by this time ; and Kazimir's 
heart rose in disgust at the revolting bargain proposed. 
Watching his face carefully, the factor proceeded to 
make play with his ware, treating the broken heart 
just as if it had been a tangible object of traffic which 
he held in his hand. Now showing it through a cloud 
of mystery; now unveiling one corner temptingly ; now 
turning up the broken edge for a moment and letting 
Kazimir catch a glimpse of how deep was the crack — 
for there is this difference between broken hearts and 
broken bottles, considered as objects of trade, that the 
depth of the crack lowers the one in value, while it 
heightens the other ; and Aitzig, knowing his advan- 
tage, worked upon it. He kept nothing back except 
the mere name. 

Kazimir rose at last in exasperation. 

" Will you go, or shall I turn you out ? " he asked, 
with frowning brow. " I will not listen to another 
word. I decline your horrid bargain. I do not want 
to buy your secret, nor do I believe that you have any 
to sell." 

This last taunt was too cruel to be borne. By ques- 
tioning his business capacity, Kazimir had touched 

VOL. III. L 



162 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. , 

Aitzig's one tender point. In his eagerness to refute, 
the factor all but lost hold over himself. He uttered 
a sound, half shriek, half laugh, and wholly hysterical, 

" How should Aitzig have no secret to sell, when it 
was these eyes that saw it and these ears that heard 
it ? Did I not see her turn, after you had left her, 
and all in a minute break down and weep, holding 
the rock with her hand because she was too weak to 
stand alone ? And Aitzig said, that is not the ruin ; 
that is because her heart is brok " 

Before Aitzig had quite realised how much he had 
betrayed, he found himself in the passage outside, 
staggeriDg against the wall, with the poodle and otter- 
hound rolling and howling in a knot at his feet. 

Kazimir had saved his dignity, but it had been a 
narrow shave, after all; that haughty indifference, 
which sat so well upon him, was on the surface only, 
no deeper than a mask. He had not forgotten that 
evening among the rocks ; he had not forgotten that 
look in Yizia's eyes which had so puzzled him then, 
and haunted him since with many a vague suspicion. 
He had wondered what the explanation of that look 
could be, and he had come so near to guessing the 
truth that it wanted nothing more than Aitzig's words 
to make the cloud fall from his eyes. 

His own stupidity appalled him ; how could he not 
have seen long ago what he saw so clearly now ? 



CARDS BETKAYED. 163 

Yes, Vizia loved him; perhaps even had loved him 
for long, — and she was beggared. But so was he ; he 
had no means wherewith to pay this debt of grati- 
tude. In a few weeks more, the sword, which had 
hovered so long over her head, would fall. Her ruin 
had been virtually completed for some time; very 
soon its practical effects would come into force, and 
Vizia be for ever forced to leave Lodniki. She had 
been wronged, cheated, beggared by his brother, thought 
Kazimir, — and she loved him. 

Thus Kazimir reflected, with his head upon his 
hand ; and the morning sunbeams, slanting in, peeped 
over his shoulder, as though they would say, " What 
are your thoughts, you pensive man ? " 



164 



CHAPTER XIX. 

WHICH CAED ? 



' Vorwarts musst du, . . 
Denn riickwarts kannst du nun nicht mehr." 

— Wallenstein : Schiller. 

The spirits I have raised, abandon me ; 
The spells which I have studied, baffle me ; 
The remedy I recked of, tortured me." 

— Manfred: Byron. 



Habit blunts us to everything ; and the rock-blasting 
at the end of the garden, which had at first excited 
interest, curiosity, or fear, according to the character 
of each household member, was now regarded by most 
with supreme indifference. They no longer felt nerv- 
ous when the warning trumpet -note was sounded, 
and they no longer screamed when, five minutes later, 
the explosion was heard. 

Xenia's peace alone remained disturbed. She had 
begun by feeling far more nervous at the trumpet- 
notes, and by screaming far louder at the explosions, 
than any one else ; and now she would still have 
liked to shriek, and still have wished to indulge in 



WHICH CARD ? 165 

hysterics, only she did not dare. Her fear of her 
husband was even greater than her fear of gunpowder ; 
and so, with a self-control she had never before prac- 
tised, Xenia contented herself with thrusting her lace 
handkerchief between her teeth, or burying her head 
in the sofa-cushion. 

Liicyan spoke little during these days ; every one 
instinctively moved out of his path. His wife shrank 
from him in terror; the servants avoided their master. 
He seemed to notice no one. Never since his burst of 
fury, had he by a single word referred to the subject 
of the paper before Xenia ; Lucyan never argued with 
his wife. But equally might it be said, that never for 
a single moment had his mind been free from the 
subject. It was of that he was thinking during the 
long hours that he silently and gloomily paced the 
room ; it was of that he was thinking when he stood 
immovable by the window, staring with vacant eyes 
through the pane, — of that, and of the poison. 

Those two things were inseparably linked together 
in his mind ; the idea once shaped, he had never 
thought of disconnecting them. The problem of the 
poison had not puzzled him for long. From his 
brother he was safe, he felt, because of that brother's 
honesty — and from his wife, because of that wife's 
stupidity ; he scarcely gave a thought to that side of 
the question : but there was a man who was neither 



16G BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

honest nor stupid, and that was the man he suspected. 
Nor should it be called by so weak a name as sus- 
]3icion ; from the very first moment it had been more. 
It was a conviction so overwhelming that it asked 
for no proof, and would admit of no doubt. Others 
might wonder; to Lucyan it all seemed hideously 
clear. It was what he had unconsciously expected, 
though he had not expected it to be so soon ; it was 
merely the realisation and embodiment of all his 
vague apprehensions; it gave them sudden shape — 
it distinctly showed him what it was that he had 
indistinctly feared. 

The consciousness he had long felt that Aitzig 
wished for his death, had become an irresistible 
belief which entirely swayed him. How was he to 
save himself? was the question on which he brooded. 
Every path of escape seemed closed. His mind, which 
had of late been so incessantly at work, refused to do 
more ; strained and weary, it began to sink under the 
stress of thought. 

If he delayed the payment of Aitzig's money, he 
could not be sure of his life for a day ; but again, if 
Aitzig had long wished for his death, as Lucyan had 
now persuaded himself that Aitzig did, would not the 
moment of the payment, after which he had nothing 
more to hope from Lucyan, be a very proper moment, 
in Aitzig's eyes, for ridding himself of his master? 



WHICH CARD ? 167 

In a confused and fevered way, Lucyan almost tliougrht 
so. He could not clearly see whether it were safer to 
withhold the money, or to pay it. And to add to his 
tortures, in the midst of this chaos, into which gradu- 
ally he felt himself drawn, the agony of parting with 
the money lost none of its keen edge. Even to put 
his life in undoubted safet}^, he would still have 
hesitated. 

All was closed around him ; there was but one pos- 
sible way by which everything would become straight 
at once — but one contingency which could give him 
back peace and comfort, and his lost self-confidence. 
Think and search as he might, it was always to this 
same point that Lucyan's mind returned, and round 
which his hopes tenaciously clung. 

It was the image of Aitzig in his shroud, as he had 
seen him that afternoon. Frightful in itself, it was to 
Lucyan an image of peace and joy. If Aitzig were 
dead, he would be free ; if Aitzig were dead, he might 
get back that fatal paper without exciting suspicion ; 
Aitzicr's death, and nothincr but Aitzicr's death, could 
save him. 

It must not be supposed that Lucyan's temptations 
at this moment were the ordinary temptations of 
ordinary men. He felt no desire to stab or strangle 
Aitzig, though he would have rejoiced to see -him 
stabbed or strangled. He was far too clever, even in 



168 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

his present state of mental confusion, ever to become 
a vulgar murderer. However strong the motive, to kill 
a man would always remain a disagreeable undertak- 
ing. It was dirty work, it was ungentlemanlike, it 
was imprudent ; it was a stupid thing to do. The 
victim was one particularly repulsive to the touch ; 
the details of the act were revolting to a fastidious 
taste; even a spot of blood made Lucyan feel sick. 
No ; there were plenty of grounds why Lucyan should 
not become a murderer : " C'est plus qu'un crime, c'est 
une faute," was the thought that held him back. 

Perhaps the reason why the picture of Aitzig 
wrapped in his shroud remained so obstinately fixed 
in Lucyan's mind was, that he had last seen the Jew 
thus. Not for years past had such a long break oc- 
curred between the factor and the Wowasulka house- 
hold. Except to bring the medicine, Aitzig had not 
been near the house this week. Lucyan had feared 
the persecution ; but this absolute peace he feared 
still more. As long as Aitzig remained thus invisible, 
the danger would appear greater, because less palpable. 
It was almost a relief when, a few days later, Lu- 
cyan, standing on the slope at the forest-edge, watch- 
ing the workmen as they bored the rocks and laid the 
train, all at once caught sight of a familiar black 
figure on the road below. 

" He is coming to me," said Lucyan ; but Aitzig was 



WHICH CAHD ? 1G9 

not coming. He kept on his way, without so much 
as raising his head, or looking up the slope. 

" He is avoiding me," said Lucyan, with a thrill of 
deeper apprehension ; " he wants to pass unnoticed : " 
and acting on something nearer an impulse than he 
had ever acted on in his life, Lucyan called — 

"Aitzig!" 

Aitzig looked up, and seeing Lucyan beckon, came 
up the slope; threading his way in rather gingerly 
fashion between the scattered rocks ; casting mistrust- 
ful glances at the pickaxes and spades that lay about 
on the grass. He was mistrustful of the whole blast- 
ing process, as one of the few things that were strange 
and unfamiliar to him. 

" The noble Pan desires ? " 

" Yes, I want to speak to you ; " for Lucyan had 
come to a resolution. " I have remembered about 
that money transaction between us." 

Aitzig, with his most winning leer, murmured that 
it was very gracious of the gentleman to remember so 
small a thing. 

" I have not the money about me now ; but to- 
morrow I shall pay you — half of the sum. Do you 
understand ? " 

"And the other half?" 

" Another time." Lucyan, though he still partially 
retained the power of masking his inward agitation, 



170 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

was scrutinising Aitzig with a long and piercing glance. 
His eyes hung upon the Jew with all the intensity 
of a lover gazing upon the beloved object. He had 
been conscious of a certain impatience to see again 
the man who, as he believed, had attempted his life. 
Coloured by his own belief, every sign he saw sup- 
ported his conviction. He saw bloodthirstiness where 
there was only cunning ; and in Aitzig's very attitude 
and expression, he thought he could read the sup- 
pressed rage of the murderer, who has been baffled 
for the moment. 

He had scarcely strength enough remaining to re- 
strain the outward expression of his disgust, 

" Listen, Aitzig," he said, with a poor attempt at his 
once so perfect dissimulation; "there was a mistake 
about that paper which the Pani gave you. I want 
it returned." 

"Naturally, naturally," said Aitzig, cringing. "It 
is quite natural that the noble Pan shall have the paper 
back." 

'' You may as well give it to me now." Lucyan held 
out his hand. 

" It is' quite natural," continued Aitzig, as though 
he had not heard, " that the paper shall be given back, 
— when the money is paid." 

" The money is to be paid to-morrow." 

" Half of it," suggested Aitzig. 



WHICH CARD ? 171 

Lucyan withdrew his hand ; he saw it was of no use. 
He had not hoped to succeed, for he well knew " the 
stubborn nature of the Jew. " 

" You can go now," he said ; " I shall see you to- 
morrow." 

"At what hour does the gracious Pan command?" 

"The same hour." 

" Aitzig will be there punctually, at the house." 

" Not the house," said Lucyan, quickly. 

" Ah, Aitzig imderstands. Aitzig is not to be 
seen there. Which place, then, does the Pan de- 
sire ? " 

Lucyan hesitated for a moment, glancing irresolutely 
around him. 

" The same place then," he said. 

They had moved on some paces in talking, and they 
stood now beside a group of large rocks — the largest 
rocks on the slope. It was a convenient spot to choose, 
near to the house, and yet shielded from the windows, 
and veiled from the road by the branches of the gar- 
den trees. The workmen were employed some fifty 
paces off. A succession of dull and monotonous 
thuds sounded over from where they worked. Three 
men were raising and sinking the heavy borer which 
was to pierce the rock. There was no reason to fear 
their prying eyes ; their eyes were perforce always 
chained to the spot they were boring ; and besides, 



172 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

they were but stupid Polish peasants, whose only 
merit lay in muscle. 

" The same place ? " repeated Aitzig, in a tone of 
dissatisfaction. "Does the gracious Pan think the 
place is safe ? " 

" Perfectly safe," said Lucyan. " Who could over- 
hear us?" 

Aitzig laughed. That was not what he meant ; he 
was thinking of another sort of safety — of gunpowder, 
and flying stones, and exploding rocks. " Ah ! " and 
Aitzig jumped a foot from the ground as another 
explosion rent the air. There was no cause for fear, 
however ; they were out of shot — the last spent 
splinter of stone grazed a tree twenty paces off. 

Lucyan gave a faint smile of contempt. 

" Don't you know that they always sound a trumpet 
as soon as the train is fired? You cannot get your 
money to-morrow unless you wait for it here." 

"Let it be so," said Aitzig, resigned. "Just here, 
then," and he looked round him. " Between those two 
big rocks it shall be." 

The rocks he pointed at were those which Lucyan 
used jestingly to call his "twins." Taller than a tall 
man, they stood close together — but not so close as to 
forbid a narrow passage between them, which passage 
was blocked at one end. It was just the spot which 
children would have prized in a game of hide-and- 



WHICH CARD ? 173 

seek ; but no children had played here within this 
generation. 

The pair of twin giants which held such high rank 
in Lucyan's defunct rockery, and which, clothed in 
ivy and crowned with waving ferns, had been its chief 
ornament, presented a desolate spectacle now : only a 
few long trails still hung down the sides — the ferns lay 
trampled on the ground. 

" Between those two rocks," said Aitzig again, and 
he nodded confidentially at the twins. It had been in 
the friendly shelter of those very rocks that he had 
cowered, while listening to Vizia and Kazimir, on the 
day of her ruin. 

Aitzig went down the slope again, and Lucyan stood 
and watched him. When the black figure had van- 
ished, Lucyan turned and walked towards the work- 
men. 

The sun was low already, the men had fired their 
last train, and were gathering their pickaxes together. 

"You are getting on fast, Monsieur Van Hoogen," 
said Lucyan, in French — (Lucyan never lost an oppor- 
tunity of airing his French) — addressing a young man 
who was buttoning his coat preparatory to leaving the 
spot. " It looks almost as if you would be done to- 
morrow." 

" Pas demain,'' laughed the Belgian overseer, show- 
ing a cheerful double row of teeth. " We shall do but 



17 J: BEGGAU MY NEIGHBOUR. 

a short day's work to-morrow ; it is the eve of some 
festival, or some anniversary of some patron saint of 
the place, they tell me ; and I must let them off their 
work two hours before the usual time, in order to make 
quite sure that they all have a fair chance of getting 
drunk." 

" My poor rocks ! " said Lucyan, with a mournful 
glance around him. 

" Splendid material," said the Belgian ; " the largest 
clump will go to-morrow, I hope," pointing in the 
direction where Lucyan had been standing some min- 
utes ago. " I am almost sorry that I shall not be here 
to see them fly up. Ce serait un plaisir ! But I shall 
have to inspect the line further down : they have got 
into a mess there — come to an awkward clay-cutting. 
Can do no more than see the trains laid; and, with their 
patron saint beckoning them to their confounded emi 
de vie shops, these fellows are pretty sure to cut and 
run as soon as my back is turned. Good evening, 
Monsieur Bielinski — fai Vhonneur de me congedier." 

"Bon soir, Monsieur Van Hoogen." And so, with 
many polite grins on the part of Monsieur Van Hoogen, 
and various equally polite words on the part of both 
gentlemen, they went on their different ways. 



175 



CHAP TEE XX. 



THE LAST TRICK. 



I am afraid to thiuk what I have done 
Look on't again I dare not." 

— Macbeth. 



LucYAN's first thought next morning was, " This is the 
day that I have to pay Aitzig half his money." 

Aitzig's first thought was, " This is the day that I 
shall have half my money paid to me." 

The workmen's first thought was, " Short work and 
deep luddki; blessed be our patron saint ! " 

The work, although short, was long enough to give 
Lucy an a headache, — for they were boring rocks again; 
and that dull, continuous succession of thuds put his 
overstrained nerves on the rack. He wished it would 
stop ; and then he changed his mind, and wished it 
would go on, — for he remembered that, when the work- 
men were gone, Aitzig would come. 

By four o'clock in the afternoon the slope was 
silent, and apparently deserted ; no workmen were in 



176 BEGGATl MY NEIGHBOUR. 

sight. There was no more reason for putting off the 
interview. If Aitzig had been punctual, he must al- 
ready now be waiting between the two rocks — waiting 
for his three thousand florins. 

Lucyan left the house reluctantly. Outside he 
paused ; and, with a glance around to make sure that 
he was unobserved, he pulled out his pocket-book and 
gazed at the notes. The pain of parting with them 
had never been so keen. He felt a great repugnance 
to that spot among the rocks : slowly down the length 
of the garden he dragged his steps towards it. 

The afternoon was so silent, and the air so clear, 
that even the rustle of a falling leaf was audible ; and 
every step of Lucyan's on the gravel sent up a sharp, 
crisp echo. No cloud had streaked the pale-blue sky 
since morning ; the sunshine lay still and golden over 
the slope. Autumn was in full glory. The year, which 
in its April youth loved primrose- wreaths and violet- 
scent, is in its second childhood now. The serious 
work of the summer is over ; the orchards are ripened, 
and the harvests are garnered ; the furnace of the sun 
has burnt the green leaves into gold ; and now the old 
year is at play again, and finds its delight in flower- 
bells and the coral of red berries. There is a wealth 
of playthings all around. Shining spider-webs where 
the dew-drops have hung all day ; velvet-winged but- 
terflies, wonderfully streaked and spotted ; thick-furred 



THE LAST TRICK. 177 

caterpillars, crimson leaves, the rattle of the grasshop- 
per in the grass, — these are the old-year toys ; and, 
like a child at play, he blows about the feathers off the 
thistle-tops, — a mischievous game it is, to which many 
a sweating peasant will give his curse next summer. 

The sunshine is making the most of the time that 
remains ; there will not be many more days of this 
sort before the winter comes. For all this boastful 
display, and this flood of golden beams, the rule of the 
sun is waning fast. This very morning Queen Frost 
has paid a flying visit to the world : her footsteps are 
still on the garden-beds, where she stole over them in 
the silent dawn, when mankind was still asleep ; her 
finger-marks are on more than one October rose, that 
hangs its languid head, carrying death in its heart. 
The rising sun scared the frosty queen away ; for when 
the first fiery arrow shot over the horizon, she fled from 
the earth in haste ; but she dropped her veil in flying. 
Early risers could see it still lying over the grass. 

Now she creeps out like a thief in the night ; but 
soon she will come in the broad daylight, unmasked 
and undisguised. Already the plants are beginning 
to droop and fade ; the ivy alone, that still lingers at 
places among the yet unblasted rocks, is only now 
bursting into late flower, looking its very gayest and 
most festive, — almost, thought Lucyan, as though it 
revelled in the havoc that is coming. 

VOL. in. M 



178 - BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

At that moment Lucy an stopped short, — for his eye 
was caught by a small object lying on a rock. It was 
a horn-trumpet, — the same, no doubt, used by the work- 
men for signalling that the train was fired. Though he 
had become familiar with its tone, Lucyan had never 
happened to see. the instrument before. He stopped 
and looked at it now ; and as he stood looking at it, he 
remembered that Monsieur Van Hoogen had told him 
that the big rocks were to be blasted to-day. 

He looked at the trumpet a minute longer ; then 
he looked to both sides of him ; then he took up the 
trumpet, turned it over, remarked that the horn was 
cracked at one place, and finally put it in his pocket. 

It was scarcely in his pocket when he perceived 
two workmen approaching. They were looking about 
them, kicking the stones, probing the grass with the 
handles of their pickaxes. Lucyan understood at once 
what it was they were looking for. 

" You have lost something ? " he said, as they came 
stumbling on, without noticing him. 

The men looked up, removed their caps, and scratch- 
ed their heads. Yes, they had lost something, — the 
trumpet for signalling, — but it was not their fault ; at 
least each of them was quite sure that it was not his 
fault, and equally sure that it was the other's fault. 

" Ah, the trumpet ! Big and yellow, was it not ? " 

" No, it was small and brown," they said. 



THE LAST TRICK. 179 

" But what do you want the trumpet for to-day ? " 
asked Lucyan ; " I thought you had left off working ? " 

The others had left off working, explained the men, 
pausing for a minute to listen to the far-off sound of 
a jovial chorus, sung by their retreating comrades ; but 
Monsieur Van Hoogen had left strict orders that a por- 
tion of those rocks was to be gone before to-morrow. 
The train was laid ; there was nothing to do but to fire 
it and sound the trumpet. 

" And what would Monsieur Van Hoogen do if you 
fired it without sounding the trumpet?" asked Lu- 
cyan. 

The men looked at each other dubiously. They 
were not quite clear as to Monsieur Van Hoogen's 
course of action in such a case; for besides beincr 
choleric, he had odd notions about safety and the 
value of human life — notions that were not at all 
Polish. 

Lucyan suggested that Monsieur Van Hoogen had 
no means of knowing whether the trumpet had been 
sounded or not. 

That was true, the men agreed ; the Pan was quite 
right. But, as the more conscientious of the two feebly 
observed, there had been some one among the rocks a 
little time ago, and they had not seen him go away. 

" He must have gone long ago," said Lucyan. 

That also was true, the men agreed again. They 



180 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

were only too ready to let themselves be convinced 
that to go off and join their rollicking companions 
was the best, the wisest, and the safest thing to do. 
Lucyan uttered no word of persuasion ; but in two 
minutes' time the workmen were doing exactly what 
he intended that they should do. If they lit the 
train at once without further search for the trumpet, 
they could still overtake their comrades. Of course, 
in that case they could not wait for the explosion ; 
for the train would take seven or eight minutes to 
reach the gunpowder. But, after all, that was not of 
much consequence. Would the Pan Marszalek stand 
here, just on this spot, where he would be quite in 
safety ? 

When the workmen had left him, Lucyan looked at 
his watch. Seven or eight minutes they had said; 
and all the future had become reduced for him to 
these seven or eight minutes before him. At what 
precise moment the idea had entered his head he 
could not have traced had he wished. He only 
knew that it was there. It might have been at the 
moment when he saw the trumpet lying on the rock, 
or it might have been when the workmen spoke to 
him. He had laid down no plan ; the plan had laid 
itself. 

He stood leaning against a tree-stem waiting ; and 
as he waited, he was not aware of any trepidation or 



THE LAST TRICK. 181 

hesitation in his purpose. He was aware only of the 
terrible slowness with which the minutes were passing. 
His mind was scarcely at w^ork ; all his senses seemed 
blunted. In a dull stupid sort of fashion he began to 
wonder whether Aitzig really were among those rocks. 
There were at least as many chances on the one side 
as on the other. He might have been detained at 
home ; he might have taken fright when they lit the 
train at the other side of the rock, even though the 
trumpet-note was not given. True, the rock was thick 
and would deaden all sound ; but the chance was there 
all the same. 

Once or twice while he waited, Lucyan put his 
hands to his ears and covered them, as if dreading the 
burst of the explosion ; but it was not dread that 
he felt, — it was rather an ever-growing longing. The 
silence of the autumn day was becoming intolerable. 

There was a large brown caterpillar crawling in the 
grass at his feet. Lucyan watched it with a curious 
attention; he wondered whether it would reach the 
tree before the train was burnt. It was strange to 
think that by merely standing thus with his arms 
folded, watching the caterpillar crawl, he was killing 
Aitzig all the time. The notion was original, whimsi- 
cal, humorous, fascinating. 

There was a bird singing on a tree at the forest- 
edge. Lucyan listened, and wondered whether Aitzig 



182 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

were listening too ? and whether the bird's song would 
be the last sound Aitzig was to hear in his life ? 

The caterpillar crawled on through the grass, slowly 
drawing near to the tree ; and the spark which Lucyan 
could not see was burning slowly towards the rock ; 
and all the time the bird's song continued, and Lucyan 
felt as though this would never end. 

When he looked at his watch he saw that just six 
minutes were passed. Putting back the wattih he 
drew out the trumpet. Up to this moment every one 
of his movements had been mechanical. He had got 
accustomed to the idea, as to a fact already accom- 
plished. As he held the trumpet in his hand, it 
flashed upon him that nothing need be accomplished 
unless he chose. The trumpet was at his lips ; but 
though he held it there some seconds, there came 
no sound. It might have been want of breath that 
checked him, or it might have been want of courage, 
or it might as well have been that he did not lack 
courage. 

It was still at his lips when a low dull sound which 
he knew well grew upon his ear. The rumble swelled 
slowly to a loud report ; the rock heaved, and, burst- 
ing, flew to fragments. There was a cloud of smoke, 
a veil of sand, and a shower of small stones. It was 
all over. 



THE LAST TRICK. 183 

A sense of relief -came over Lucyan — of sudden, of 
immense relief; one way or the other the matter was 
settled. The trumpet dropped from his fingers to the 
grass as he stood gazing steadily up the slope. 

The aspect of the spot was changed, but not as 
much as he had expected ; for it was the furthest of 
the two rocks that had fallen — the nearest one stood 
upright still. Shattered blocks lay on the grass, and 
on them the dust and smoke were slowly settling 
down again. The silence was once more complete. 
There had been no shriek, no other sound beyond the 
explosion. The idea of Aitzig being dead came upon 
Lucyan suddenly as a complete improbability. He 
looked round him. The road was empty ; there was 
not a human being within sight. 

Curiosity had taken entire possession of him ; he 
wanted to know whether Aitzig were up there or not, 
and slowly he began to ascend the slope. 

Small curls of blue smoke floated towards him ; the 
smell of gunpowder made him feel faint, and his steps 
grew slow and heavy. The nearer that he approached 
the spot, the more improbable did Aitzig's death ap- 
pear. Aitzig might at this moment be sitting at the 
Propinacya peacefully watering his wodki. 

The ground around the rock was rough with sharp 
corners of stone. The now lonely twin stood mournful 



184 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

but intact, staring down in stony surprise at the frag- 
ments of its shivered companion. 

Lucyan skirted it, and, coming round the corner, he 
saw at a few paces a man lying stretched with his 
face to the ground. 

That the man was a Jew, the haftan, rent and torn, 
told him ; and that this Jew was Aitzig Majulik, he 
needed no haftan to tell him. 

" Dead ! " said Lucyan aloud, for there was no one 
to hear him. 

The rock alongside seemed to nod in melancholy 
agreement. 

That one word broke the silence painfully. Even 
the humming insects seemed to pause, and the bird 
had not resumed its song. 

The attitude of the prostrate figure was that of a 
dead man ; but Aitzig's face was hidden in the grass, 
and Lucyan felt simultaneously a great repugnance 
and a great desire to see that hidden face. 

He made a step forward, then drew back again, 
shuddering, but never taking his eyes off the man on 
the ground. 

" Dead ! yes, surely dead ! " he whispered ; but no 
answering nod came from the rock this time. 

To Lucyan, it seemed as if it were shaking its stony 
head in reply ; and before he had time to ask himself 



THE LAST TRICK. 185 

what it meant, the whole block of stone had tottered, 
and, slipping forward, was slowly falling upon him. 

The shock of concussion had loosened its hold, or 
perhaps the destruction of its brother had broken its 
granite heart ; and refusing to survive for even one 
day, the solitary twin had sought its own end. 



186 



CHAPTEE XXL 

COUNTING THE TRICKS. 

" Can no one hear? It is a perilous tale." 

— Coleridge. 

The rock had been wrong when it nodded, and right 
when it shook its head; for Aitzig Majulik was not 
dead. He was crushed, mangled, and disfigured, but 
the breath was still in his body. " He will die before 
nightfall," the people said ; and they said the same for 
many days afterwards ; but many nights fell, and four 
weeks passed, and Aitzig still lingered. 

Four weeks had been enough to blunt the first edge 
of excitement, curiosity, and wonder which the acci- 
dent, resulting in the death of the master of Wowa- 
sulka, had awakened. The inquiry and examination 
of the workmen had led to no other conclusion than 
that it had been an unfortunate chance, coupled with 
some negligence. 

Lucyan had been buried with much pomp, but little 



COUNTING THE TRICKS. 187 

grief; with many wax-candles, but few tears. His 
fate was scarcely to be called a very cruel one, for lie 
had been spared the agony of death. Death had made 
a clean stroke of it here, — had killed him at one blow ; 
he could hardly have had time to understand that the 
rock was falling on him. 

The neighbourhood had got used to Xenia's black 
crape, and to Janina's ; for Janina now openly signed 
herself by the name of Bielinska, and the little Marcin, 
who had lately made his appearance in the world, and 
for whom Janina had immediately bought the very 
noisiest rattle that could be found in all Tarajow, was 
universally acknowledged as the dead Marcin 's legal 
son. No very positive proof of the marriage was forth- 
coming, but Kazimir said that she had been his brother 
]\rarcin's wife : and the same neighbourhood that had 
once coldly patronised the prodigal, now bowed to the 
decision of the master of Wowasulka. Lucyan's will 
ascribing his fortune to his only child Wanda, now 
dead, Kazimir became heir-at-law. The sixth part was 
all to which the wddow was entitled ; but Kazimir had 
shown himself more than generous in restoring to her 
her personal fortune. As yet he had made no change 
in his own life, and curiosity still remained un- 
satisfied as to what his future was to be. Wowasulka 
was inhabited only by the widow, and now by Vizia, 
wdio had indeed no other home. 



188 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

His communication with the two women had been 
slight of late ; but one day a pink scented note was 
brought to him, requesting his immediate presence. 

The road was deep with mud, for the fine weather 
had broken a fortnight ago ; and rain — grey, persistent, 
and pitiless rain — had been falling ever since. 

To reach Wowasulka, Kazimir had to pass by the 
Propinacya buildings ; and here, to his surprise, he 
found the road blocked with men who stood in groups, 
regardless of the rain, and evidently labouring under 
some excitement, though few^ of them raised their 
voices above a whisper, and most of them stood silent. 
The men w^ere all Jews, Kazimir perceived, and their 
eyes were all fixed in one direction, — towards the 
closed door of the Propinacya. 

Just as Kazimir was passing, the door opened, and 
a small Icaftan-cXdidi figure rushed out, and straight to- 
wards Kazimir it darted through the crowd. 

" Gracious Pan ! noble Master ! " shouted the little 
Jew, " the God of Abraham has sent you." 

" Come nearer," said Kazimir, — "I do not understand 
you;" for the miniature Hebrew, whose long robe, 
tiny skull-cap, and diminutively snaky curls, pre- 
sented a most perfect copy of his elders, had come to 
a standstill, and was looking apprehensively at the 
horse's heels. He again shrieked out something, in- 
comprehensible to Kazimir. 



COUNTING THE TRICKS. 189 

Kazimir, turning to a group of older Jews, inquired 
the reason of this disturbance. 

"Aitzig Majulik is lying at the point of death," 
said one. 

" And we are waiting here to pray for his soul," said 
another. " The wise man has said that he cannot last 
till evening." 

" And he has been calling for you all night," said 
a third. " Listen ! you can hear it now ! " and in the 
silence which followed, Kazimir could distinctly hear 
the voice of a man in delirium calling out his name. 

" Pan Bielinski ! Pan Bielinski 1 " it screamed. 
'' I have to speak to the Pan Bielinski, to the master 
of Wowasulka. Will no one call him ? Will no one 
call him ? " — and the rest was deadened by the thick- 
ness of the wall. 

Kazimir sprang from his horse. 

Immediately there rose a murmur in the crowd. 
On all sides the Jews pressed forward towards him. 

" Let me pass," said Kazimir ; " I mean to go to 
him." 

" You cannot, you cannot ! " they cried all round 
him. " Your foot may not cross the threshold of his 
house. Would you weigh down his soul at the mo- 
ment of flight ? Would you bring him back to earth 
whom Jehovah calls to heaven ? The Angel of Death 
stands at the door ; you cannot pass ! ' 



190 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

And the Jews, in their excitement, pressed close 
around him ; and some held him back by his cloak, 
and others put themselves between him and the door ; 
while the wildest amongst them tore at their curls in 
rage, and dancing about furiously in the mud, screamed 
at the pitch of their voices, " Wai ! Wai"! the Gentile 
must not pass ; he must not pass ! " 

" Make way, cowards ! " he said, shaking off on 
either side some half-dozen of dirty hands; and 
as his riding- whip was stout and his mien deter- 
mined, the Jews danced out of his way; and, pur- 
sued by a chorus of furious yells, Kazimir entered 
the house. 

With trembling fingers the little Hebrew bolted and 
locked the door behind them ; and then drew Kazimir 
forward along a pitch-dark corkscrew passage. 

The same voice which he had heard through the 
wall met his ears here, louder and more plaintive, 
growing more distinct with every step along the pas- 
sage. Through the opening door it burst at last upon 
him like the grating of some ill-tuned instrument, for 
the poor wretch was hoarse with calling. And through 
it all there ran an undercurrent of nasal recitation, 
which never fluctuated in tone, however shrill might 
grow the cries of the man in delirium. 

The room was square, low, and close to suffocation. 
Over each window there hung some piece of black 



COUNTING THE TPJCKS. 191 

stuff — on one a ragged shawl, on the other a threadbare 
blanket — shutting out the light from the lower panes. 
There were at least seven beds in the room, all ranged 
along the walls, and all heaped with feather-pillows, 
whose embroidered stripes showed in strange contrast 
to the dirt and dust around. Every bed was of a 
different shape and height, as was also every chair in 
the room ; for they had each been picked up as the 
occasion offered, and there was not one of them which 
had not been bought a bargain. 

In a further corner, a mass of old iron made a rusty 
hillock, — a sack bursting with goose-feathers lay along- 
side ; above it there hung two thick plaits of fair hair, 
^ which, only a week ago, had still wreathed the head 
of some peasant-beauty. There were jugs too on the 
table, and bottles, and a mingled smell of ivddki and 
garlic pervading the room. The door of a closet in the 
wall stood ajar, just wide enough to afford a glimpse 
of a broken bird-cage, and of a saddle on which the 
leather hung down in rags. Smaller objects, such as 
old tooth-brushes, single ear-rings, and pocket- combs, 
occupied a higher shelf to themselves. 

Several people were in the room, although, in the 
half darkness, Kazimir could not at once distinguish 
them all. A youth was laying straw in the centre 
of the floor ; some paces further, a man sat crouching 
on his heels beside one of the beds; and on that bed 



192 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUll. 

there lay Aitzig Majulik, supported in the arms of his 
wife. 

The woman's feet were slipshod, and her petticoat 
patched ; she wore a dirty cotton bedgown, a ragged 
neck-handkerchief, a greasy satin wig, and a coronet 
of pearls and diamonds, which might have graced a 
crowned head. There had been a time when the teeth 
of Aitzig's wife had been as white as those pearls, and 
her eyes as bright as the diamonds that shone among 
them : now the jewels only served to set off the 
wrinkles of her withered cheek, and the sharp lines 
of her haggard features. They made a dazzling frame 
to her ugliness ; for the teeth that remained to her were 
yellow, and the eyes sunken and dull, showing no 
lustre either of tenderness, pity, or grief, as she held 
up her dying husband in her arms. 

As Kazimir entered, the shrill cries dropped sud- 
denly ; and when he approached the bed, Aitzig lay 
quite silent, and stared at him blankly. 

" You called me," said Kazimir — " here I am." 

Aitzig examined him with anxiety, a puzzled frown 
upon his face. 

" I want the master of Wowasulka ; you are not the 
master of Wowasulka." 

" There is no other now." 

" I wish you were the master of Wowasulka," said 
Aitzig, in a whisper so feeble that Kazimir could 



COUNTING THE TRICKS. 193 

hardly catch it ; " you would not have treated a poor 
man as the other did. Oh cruel, cruel, world ! " 

" He has been wandering since yesterday," observed 
the wife, in a mechanical tone. 

Aitzig lay and stared at Kazimir, as if struggling to 
get at some conclusion. Suddenly he seemed to have 
reached it ; he clutched at Kazimir 's arm. 

" The paper," he whispered — " the paper ; you have 
got it for me? you have brought it to me? where 
is it?" 

" What paper ? I know of no paper." 

" The voucher for the six thousand florins ; the rail- 
way money. Ah, my memory is good : you wanted me 
to give it back ; but no, no, no, Aitzig is no fool," — a 
shade of senseless cunning passed over his white face, 
— " only now they have stolen it; they could not find it 
in my kaftan ; it is lost — lost ; but you have brought 
it back ? " and eagerly he stretched a shaking hand 
towards Kazimir. 

" I know of no paper," said Kazimir again. 

The* sick man gazed at him long and piercingly, 
then dropped his hand, and turned deliberately round 
in his bed, away from Kazimir. 

" Oh, I forgot," he said, with a weary sigh ; " it was 
the other brother." 

For several minutes he did not move, and the nasal 
invocations of the crouching Jew beside the bed were 

VOL. III. N 



194 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

the only sound in the room. The silence was so long 
that the old Jewess bent over him scrutinisingly, and 
then inquired of her grandson whether the candle- 
stick were ready, and the sheet, and directed him to 
take the cracked mirror from the wall ; for it is bad 
luck to see two corpses in the room, instead of one. 

Outside also, the silence had been noticed ; the pro- 
fessional mourners began to give a few preliminary 
howls, as though to get their voices into training for 
the labour that awaited them. 

The howls aroused Aitzig ; he moved again in his 
bed,, and this time there was a return of intelligence 
in his eye. It alighted first upon his eldest grandson. 
"'Mind, Simche," he said, almost in his usual voice, 
" the feathers are not to be given under eight thirty- 
five ; the soft ones at the mouth of the sack, the stiff 
ones below." 

Then his eye travelled on towards Kazimir. 
"Your brother is dead," he began abruptly. "Do 
you mourn for him ? " 

" Why should I not ? " said Kazimir, evasively. 
Aitzig shook his head. " You should not mourn for 
him. What was he to you when he lived ? A false 
friend, a false brother, a traitor." 
" Hush," said Kazimir, quickly. 
The crouching Jew broke off his recitation, and sat 
down to rest upon a bundle of old coats ; for Aitzig 



COUNTING THE TKICKS. 195 

was not dying as quickly as he had expected, and 
his joints were cramped by the hard boards. 

"Hush," said Kazimir. "What can you know 
about it?" 

"What should Aitzig not know? Aitzig was his 
right hand ; without Aitzig he could have done noth- 
ing of what he did. I worked his plans; I knew 
his secrets. Ah, secrets are good things ! " cried 
Aitzig, in feverish excitement — "for secrets bring 
money ; everything is good that brings money. The 
stinking grease brings the chinking gold, they say. 
Tell me, Pan Kapitan, will you pay me for the secret ? 
for all the secrets ? How much gold will you give to 
old Aitzig if he tells you the lady's name ? " His 
mind was beginning to wander again. 

" Is the straw laid ready ? " asked the wife, in a dry 
whisper. 

Kazimir looked at her inquiringly. 

" They die more easily on the ground," she ex- 
plained, in a matter-of-fact tone. 

" No — no — no ! " cried Aitzig, " not yet the straw. 
I cannot die without the paper. I must have the six 
thousand florins. Noble Pan, give me the paper ; why 
will you not give the paper to poor old Aitzig ? " and 
he began to whimper like a child. 

The watching Jew, leaving his bundle, crouched 
down again on his heels, and resumed his recitation ; 



196 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and the door slowly opening, there poured in a stream 
of black figures, all whispering as they began to move 
about the room, making their noiseless preparations. 
One trimmed the wax-candle which was to burn at 
the head of the dead man, but did not light it yet, for 
that would have been waste. Another put together on 
the threshold all vessels containing water, ready to be 
emptied out on the road when the Angel of Death, in 
passing, should have dipped his fingers in it ; for the 
water then smells of human blood. Another busied 
himself in taking from the wall the many -striped, 
many-coloured bag, containing the black and silver 
scarf, which had been the proudest acquisition of 
Aitzig's life. 

And every Jew as he came in passed his hand over 
a parchment-tablet in the wall beside the door-post, 
and kissed the fingers which had touched the parch- 
ment ; 1 and all of them, as they moved about, or stood 
in a circle round the bed, cast gloomy and threatening 
glances towards the intruder, whose unhallowed pres- 
ence was sacrilegiously disturbing the last hour of this 
child of Israel. 

" You should be commending your soul to your fore- 
fathers," they said to the sick man, " instead of wasting 
your minutes in godless parley with a Christian." 

1 The universal prayer of the Jews, called " Sadaj," which signifies 
Almighty. 



COUNTING THE TRICKS. 197 

" Your hour of glory is coming," said another. " Be- 
fore sunset you will rest in the bosom of Abraham ; " 
and he held out the silver-striped shroud, shaking it 
into tempting folds before Aitzig's eyes. But Aitzig 
shivered convulsively and turned away; the silver 
scarf had no charms for him just now. 

" 0, my God," he murmured after the others, " the 
soul Thou hast given me is pure. Thou hast created 
it in me, and Thou hast breathed it into me, and Thou 

watchest over it in the midst of me " He broke off 

with a groan, then opened his eyes again. " Simche," 
he whispered to his grandson, " remember the big jar 
of wddki is not to be sold till it has been mixed. Am 
I dying now ? I wonder who it was that killed me ? 
There were the workmen, and the sun shone, and 
there was a noise like thunder when I stood between 
the rocks. I don't remember the rest. Who killed 
me? Was it you?" and he turned his head again 
towards Kazimir. 

Kazimir stood silent ; and for a minute Aitzig lay 
silent also, apparently collecting the last remnants of 
his mental powers. When he spoke again he had 
regained a momentary clearness. 

" Pan Kapitan, do you remember how you gave up 
your rights four years ago ? — all your rights to Wowa- 
sulka ? " 

'' I remember," said Kazimir. 



198 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" And how you got a paper which spoke of the Pro- 
pinacya and the lease ? " 

" Yes, yes," said Kazimir ; " what of it ? " 

" I wrote that lease, Pan Kapitan. It was signed 
by my name; but that paper — that paper — hush!" 
— he checked himself — "there are too many people 
listening. Bend over me; I will whisper it." 

Kazimir bent down to listen : but the face on the 
pillow was convulsed by a sharp spasm ; a sort of 
shuddering moan burst from the withered lips. 

" The fit is coming on again," said the woman ; " he 
cannot speak while it lasts." 

" I must go now," said Kazimir, stepping back, and 
the black figures all round nodded approvingly : but 
Aitzig caught him by the cloak. 

" Pan Kapitan, Pan Kapitan," he panted, though 
twisting in pain, " you must come back. I shall not 
die yet ; I cannot die, you know, till I have my 
money;" and the cold drops stood on his forehead. 
" I have a secret to tell you — one of your brother's 
secrets. You will pay me for it. Say you will come 
back. Promise ! " 

" Do these fits last long ? " asked Kazimir, turning 
to the wife. 

" An hour or more," she answered, shortly. 

" I shall come back in an hour, Aitzig." 

" Promise," said the sick man again. 



COUNTING THE TRICKS. 199 

" I promise." 

The grasp of the fingers relaxed. " Yes," he groaned, 
with a painful effort, " I shall wait for you here at 
this place — the same place, but not between the rocks 
— no, no, no — not between the rocks ; " and the wild- 
ness returned to his eye. 

The black circle around the bed opened readily to 
let Kazimir pass. 

" Lay him on the straw ; it is time," Kazimir 
heard them say, as he reached the door ; but in the 
midst of his convulsion Aitzig found strength to 
shriek — 

" Xot yet — not yet the straw ! " 

They were lifting him out by the time Kazimir had 
regained the air, and he could still hear how the poor 
wretch was shrieking, " Not yet, not yet ! I cannot 
die yet ! " but the screams were drowned in a nasal 
chorus of prayer. 

The game of Aitzig's life was fast drawing to a close. 
This knave was to take no more tricks at the card- 
table of the world. But there are plenty other knaves 
ready to step into his place. The game never stops 
for want of proper cards, nor of players either. For 
does not every one of us figure at that card-table, 
sometimes as card, sometimes as player ? And is not 
life very like a game at which we each have to take 
our turn, where we each try to get the better of the 



200 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

other, and where some must of necessity lose, in order 
that others may gain ? To be sure, we can never quite 
know who is gainer and who is loser until the end is 
reached and the points are scored ; and points such as 
these can be scored only on deathbeds. 

Aitzig's game is wellnigh played out, as Lucyan's is 
entirely ; but not so Kazimir's, nor some others yet. 
The game will go on after my curtain is dropped, just 
as it had begun before it ever was raised. I have 
done no more than show a few turns. 

1 have still a few more turns to show ; for there are 
cards which might yet be paired off before this round 
is closed. 

Was there not a pink note in Kazimir's pocket 
summoning him to an interview at Wowasulka ? 



201 



CHAPTER XXII. 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 



■ War sie der Flamme nicht werth, die so feiirig Geliebte, verzeih ihr I " 

— Brinkmann. 



" This way," said the barefooted servant - girl to 
Kazimir. " Xot that door, Pan Kapitan, — this one." 
It was the drawing-room door which Kazimir had 
been opening, and the room to which she pointed 
was Xenia's bedroom. 

There was a grin on the girl's stupid face as she 
held back the door for him ; and feeling vaguely 
uneasy as to the meaning of the grin, and somewhat 
surprised at being admitted into this sanctuary, Kazi- 
mir, almost timidly, stepped over the threshold. 

It seemed to him that he was stepping right into 
a rare plant-house — so hot was the air, and so heavily 
scented with rich perfumes, mingling their sweet breath 
in an almost overpowering fragrance — patchouli, wood- 
violet, and new-mown hay, were all contending for the 



202 BEGGAll MY NEIGHBOUR. 

upper hand, and with them was struggling another — 
and here unusual odour, — nothing less than the smell 
of tobacco. 

But it was a most delicate and tender tobacco : it 
curled in a faint blue wreath from a fragile cigarette, 
and the ci^irarette was held between Xenia's fing^ers, as 
she reclined on a sofa, with her widow's weeds flowing 
around her. 

And such widow's weeds they were ! Not a fault 
could have been pointed by the sternest moralist. 
The mourning was as deep as the most iron etiquette 
could demand ; and yet in its very depth Xenia had 
found means to mirror her bcjauty. Every touch served 
to set it off — from the broad white band encircling the 
skirt, with which Polish custom marks the nearest 
loss, to the coquettishly chiffonne morsel of crape 
which Xenia called her widow's cap, but which 
looked more like a big black butterfly settling by 
mistake on the side of her chestnut head. 

" I hope you do not mind my receiving you here — 
in this way " — said Xenia, looking down first at her- 
self and then upwards at Kazimir, confidently, for an 
answer. " You know how wretchedly ill I have been 
lately; I am quite unable to dress properly." Her 
attire was a flowing dressing-gown, gathered by a black 
cord into loose folds at the slender waist. The sleeves 
were wide and hanging ; and Xenia, as she spoke, gave 



KAZIMIR EEVOKES. 203 

a little graceful pull to one of them, as if all at once 
distressed at the amount of white arm displayed. 

" You might have come to see me sooner, Kazimir," 
she said, reproachfully; ''you need not have waited 
for my note." 

" I should have come soon, at any rate," said 
Kazimir ; " for you have heard of the change, of 
course ? " 

" About the regiment marching ? " 

" Yes." 

" What has that to do with it ? " said Xenia, lightly. 

'' Only that I meant to say good-bye." 

'*' Good-bye ! " She repeated the word with another 
laugh, as if nothing so exquisitely amusing as this 
word good-bye had ever been heard. "You make 
me laugh, Kazimir ; you talk as if there really were 
any reason for saying good-bye." 

" I hardly understand " began Kazimir ; but 

Xenia, who all this time had been drawing persistent 
though timid puffs from her cigarette, began to cough 
with some violence. 

" You never used to smoke before," said Kazimir, as 
she regained her breath. 

" Because Lucyan never would let me. There are so 
many things which Lucyan would never let me do ; 
I have never known liberty before. Don't you find 
that the room looks quite changed ? " 



204 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

Kazimir had noticed already that the room was 
changed, — not exactly in any prominent feature, but 
in a host of minute details. 

It was on Xenia's toilet-table that were now ranged 
those numerous scent-bottles and cut-glass phials which 
Lucy an had always kept for his own exclusive use. 
The porcelain stove, which in Lucyan's time had 
been fed but sparingly, was now crammed to burst- 
ing, and glowing to an intolerable degree. The 
gardening books which once filled the shelves, w^ere 
now piled in a corner on the floor, with the excep- 
tion of the well-worn 'Hints to the Kose -Lover,' 
which, from its shape, had been found a convenient 
block for winding some black lace flounces that 
required smoothing. 

Kazimir had not loved his brother, and yet these 
signs in the room pained him. They were not enough 
to make him regret Lucyan, but they were enough 
to make him again regret that their last words 
had been so bitter. 

" Last night," said Xenia, " I was so frightened by a 
dream. I dreamt that Lucyan w^as alive again, and 
walked into the room softly, just as he used to do, 
and found me using his wood-violet scent. I think 
I screamed, and that awoke me; and it was such a 
relief to see that his bed was empty." 

She paused, twirling the cigarette between her 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 205 

fingers, and watching Kazimir from under her eye- 
lashes. He was rather stupid to-day, she thought, 
and slow to take the hints she had given him. 

" That is why I sent for you," she added aloud. 

Kazimir certainly was very stupid to-day; appar- 
ently he could see no connection between Xenia's 
dream and Xenia's message. 

" You are dropping ashes on your dress," he prosai- 
cally remarked. 

Xenia brushed them off, with a pout on her lips. 

'* I don't think you are getting on very well with 
that cigarette. Do you really care for smoking ? " 

" Oh, very much," said Xenia, blinking her eyes in 
the smoke. " So many women smoke, you know ; 
don't all officers' wives smoke ? " 

" Some of them do." 

" The pretty widow smoked, did she not 1 " 

" Yes." 

Xenia smiled, and threw another expectant glance 
at Kazimir. * 

" And now I am a widow too." 

Clearly it was his part to put in the word '' pretty," 
which she had omitted. 

His silence provoked her — it scarcely alarmed her 
yet. 

" Do you object to women smoking ? " 

" No, not particularly." 



206 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

'' If— if you think, — if— if you wish it, I will stop," 
said Xenia, most sincerely; for in truth she was 
choked and parched, and longing for an excuse to 
get rid of her cigarette. 

Kazimir disclaimed any such wish. 

She tossed her head in a w^ay which made the crape- 
butterfly give a sort of flutter in her hair; but the 
cigarette was laid aside. 

" I have made no changes yet in any of the other 
rooms," she said ; " but we shall have to get new 
furniture in the drawing-room; don't you think 
so?" 

" I have not thought about it," said Kazimir, start- 
ing at something in her phrase. 

" Of course you will have to decide." She looked 
at him with a charmingly submissive glance. " You 
must choose it yourself; what is your favourite colour ?" 

" Black," said Kazimir, rather grimly. 

" How absurd of you ! " She looked down at her 
black dress, shook up her rattling black bracelets, and 
blushed a little at the supposed compliment. " But it 
would never do to have black furniture, you know ; I 
think blue w^ould be best. I never dared to ask Lu- 
cy an for blue furniture ; and — oh yes, I have had all 
the flower-pots taken away ; you never liked flowers, 
you know, and you were always knocking them 
down." 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 207 

Kazimir's face had suddenly become very grave. 
" There is no need to consult me/' he said, slowly; " I 
am going away." 

" But you are coming back again ? " 

He was silent. 

" When are you coming back again ? " Her voice 
betrayed the slightest possible tremor ; the first chord 
of alarm had been touched within her. 

" When are you coming back ? " 

" I do not know." 

" But it will be soon, — very soon ? In a few weeks ? 
in a few months ? before the end of this year ? " 

" No, Xenia ; I do not think it will be this year." 

She began to get frightened, although still half in- 
credulous. Every word hitherto had been but a sort of 
light skirmishing : she had played and coquetted with 
her meaning — had been a little piqued at his slowness 
to seize the prize offered — but had been unable to 
realise that there could be any positive hesitation' in 
the grasping of that prize. She did not quite realise 
it yet ; only the grave expression of his face awoke in 
her a sort of nameless panic. 

" Kazimir ! " she broke out, " it is you who should 
be speaking now, not I. Will you say nothing to 
me?" 

" I will say good-bye," he answered, very low. 

Xenia made an attempt to laugh it off; but she was 



208 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

half sitting up on the sofa now, and, with her bare arms 
on the table, was gazing at him anxiously. 

" Do not look so grave, Kazimir — you frighten me : 
tell me that you are happy. Just think how long we 
have waited for this moment. I thought that I should 
be quite old and grey by the time it came." There was 
a mirror hanging straight opposite the sofa, and in- 
stinctively Xenia's eyes travelled towards it. Her 
courage revived, and with it her coquetry. " You 
have been trying to frighten me, Kazimir, — have you 
not ? Look at me, Kazimir ! " 

Kazimir looked. He saw a beautiful woman, with 
unabashed eyes, and pettishly parted lips. He marked 
the coquettish pose: the bare arms, now fully dis- 
played ; the carefully exposed foot ; the hand, which 
played with the curl. He knew that every one of 
these touches was calculated to work upon him, — and 
he wondered a little at his own indifference. Why 
was he so cold ? He knew, and had known for some 
time past, that he had gained her love — what love she 
had to give. Why did his heart not bound ? Not one 
of these signs had power to move him. He was 
conscious only of an oppression which made him 
long to leave her presence. He rose abruptly, and 
walked to the window. Xenia got up and followed 
him. 

" You loved me all the time, Kazimir, — did you not ? 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 209 

I know you did. It must have been a dreadful time 
for you. Do you understand me now ? Do you not 
understand yet ? " 

Still he stood beside her, silent, and apparently 
unmoved. 

" Oh, Kazimir, how stupid you are to-day ! Do 
you not see ? You are to be made happy ! " 

" That cannot be," said Kazimir, below his breath. 

She thought he still doubted his own happiness, as 
too great. 

" But it really can be," she said, with a flippant 
laugh. " Lucyan is dead, and you have deserved your 
reward ; you have loved me so long ; and you love me 
as much as ever, do you not ? Lucyan always used to 
say so." 

Kazimir's face was averted, and his features were 
working now. 

" Kazimir ! " she cried, with an hysterical scream ; 
" you must love me still ! You cannot, you cannot be 
faithless ! " 

" As you once were to me," thought Kazimir ; but 
he kept down the words. 

'' I know what it is," — and Xenia burst into a flood 
of tears, — " you do not think me pretty any more ; 
you think I have lost my looks. But it is not true — 
it really is not true ; it was only Lucyan who said so 
to torment me. It is only the mourning ; black does 

VOL. III. 



210 BEGGAE MY NEIGHBOUR. 

not suit me— it makes me look pale ; but I will leave 
it off as soon as you like. I know it is only the 
black ! " and Xenia, with feverish energy, tore the 
crape - butterfly from her hair, and threw it on the 
ground ; and pulling off her jet bracelets, flung them 
in a rattling heap on the table. 

" No, no, Xenia ! " said Kazimir, with a deep-drawn 
sigh ; " it is not that, — it is " 

" It is what ? " 

" I do not know," he said, sadly. " It is not as it 
used to be." 

" What is not as it used to be ? " 

" Everything is changed." 

" Changed ? I knew it ! " She stamped her foot. 
" What do you find changed ? Are my eyes less blue ? 
Look at me ! " She laughed through her tears with 
brazen boldness. 

" Oh no, not that." 

" Has my hair turned grey ? " 

" No." 

" Is my skin wrinkled or freckled ? " 

He shook his head ; " you are as beautiful as ever, 
Xenia." 

" Ah ! " she drew a sigh of relief " Then, what ca7i 
you mean ? What is it, Kazimir ? " 

What was it indeed ? Was she not as fair as ever ? 
Was she not free ? and did she not love him ? Had 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 211 

he not sighed for her love as for the most precious 
thing in life ? and now he held it ! 

Could it be perhaps that precisely because he held 
it, he was able to see at last how poor a thing it was 
to have sighed for, and to have gained ? how little 
of it, after all, she had to give ? 

Nothing was changed, and yet everything was 
changed ; it was all different now from what it had 
been. But the guilt was Lucyan's, and not hers. 
He it was who had turned the once shrinking girl 
into this forward woman ; he it was who had fostered 
her vanity to further his own ends, who had taught 
her that flippant laugh, who had hardened her to 
blushes, who had debased what intellect she had, 
changed her modesty into boldness; who had done 
everything but embitter her sweetness. He it was 
who, even dead, had left his influence upon her, and 
who from his grave still pulled the strings of the 
puppet he had fashioned. 

With a good husband, she would have been a good 
woman. If a clinging plant be trained to grow upon 
an oak-tree, it will in time raise its head as high as 
the oak itself ; and if it be taught to trail along the 
mire, it will creep through the mud, obedient to the 
hand that guides it. It was only that she had learnt 
her lesson too well ; it was only that a beautiful thing 
had been wilfully spoilt. Oh, it was a pity 1 



212 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

" A pity ! a pity ! " it echoed in Kazimir's heart, — 
while Xenia, clinging to his arm, sobbed, and repeated 
that she knew it was only the black; that it could 
not be true ; that he must love her still — he must, he 
must ! for her vanity, seriously mortified for the first 
time in her life, lent her a feverish flow of words. 

Her arms were round his neck now, and her head 
on his shoulder. What would he not once have given 
for this ? And now he stood like a statue of ice ; 
keenly aware that this silence, this coldness was 
ungracious, cruelly ungracious to her; but feeling 
equally that if he spoke, his words would be more 
cruel yet. What could he say ? Eeproaches ? he had 
made them long ago. Explanations? she would not 
understand them. How should she ever fathom the 
reason of this change, she who never looked deeper 
than her looking-glass, never higher than her own 
exquisite coiffure, never lower than her Parisian shoes ? 
Her eyes would have been sharp enough to detect the 
first grey hair on her head, the first wrinkle on her 
face, but blind to see that which Kazimir saw in her. 
No ; it was a hopeless task, and he did not attempt it. 
Softly, very softly disengaging her arms, he led her 
back to the sofa. 

"We should not have made each other happy, 
Xenia," he said, sadly. " Once I thought differently ; 
but it is I who am to blame, not you. I made a great 



KAZIMIR REVOKES. 213 

mistake, that is all. Forgive nie for this suffering- 
forgive me, if you can. You will be happier when I 
am gone ; " but she only threw herself on her cushions 
and sobbed, and stormed like a child who has thrown 
away its plaything, and wants it back again. But 
the plaything was broken, and could not be mended : 
there was no glue in the world, nor hammer and nails, 
which could make the toy whole again. Not even 
Kazimir could do it. He had been very loving, and 
very generous ; but now his generosity was run dry, 
his love was exhausted. For many weeks past it had 
been dying a slow death. He could no more revive 

it than he could call Lucyan from the grave. There 

ft 

remained but a bitter regret for what might have been, 
and a poignant pity for the suffering he now saw. 

And it was unavoidable that Kazimir should exag- 
gerate the suffering, putting down to the score of her 
new affection more than was due to it, and forgetting 
to cast in the balance the large proportion of hurt 
vanity which caused these tears to flow. 

"Will you not say good-bye, at least?" sobbed 
Xenia, convulsively, and then flew out at him afresh, 
when he attempted to do as she asked him. It was 
cruel of him, heartless, inhuman, to speak even of 
saying farewell ; she could not have believed it of him ; 
and the hysterics began again with redoubled force. 

The kindest course was to go, thought Kazimir; 



214 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

and rising softly, lie walked to the door. There was 
no need to tear himself away as he had done once 
before, and there was no more danger in the linger- 
ing look with which he left her, wondering a little 
at himself for haying ceased to love her. The won- 
der was rather that he had loved her so long. 



215 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

HANDS AND HEARTS. 

" For Love himself took part against himself." 

—Tennyson. 

Choked with all that patchouli and wood-violet, sur- 
feited with all that beauty, Kazimir stood in the cool 
passage, and drew a deep breath. Looking back at 
the interview just ended, there came over him, with 
overpowering vividness, a sense of the awkwardness, 
nay, the absurdity of the part he had had to play. 
A man who refuses the broad advances of a beautiful 
woman, can never quite escape looking rather like a 
fool. Kazimir felt a wish to do something which 
should rid him of this impression. He wanted to be 
active now, and not passive ; and the action, he felt, 
must be immediate. 

Perhaps it was the violence of this revulsion which 
suddenly ripened a thought that had lain dormant 
within him for some weeks past. All at once it 



216 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

started up and stared him full in the eyes ; and before 
he had even quite realised his own resolution, Kazimir 
was already beginning to act upon it. 

He opened one door after another, and looked in 
hastily ; he eagerly traversed the sitting-rooms and 
the dining-room ; he returned again to the passage dis- 
appointed, — the person he looked for was not there. 

The house was quite silent, except for the far-off 
creak of an open window, and for the strokes of a 
vigorous broom which could be heard sweeping a ,floor 
somewhere in the distance above. A housemaid might 
give him the information he wanted, thought Kazimir ; 
and following the sound of the broom, he rapidly 
mounted the staircase. 

Up here there were many doors also, all closed ; he 
followed the sound of the broom from door to door : 
it led him to the door of an attic-room ; but just as he 
reached it, the sweeping came to a full stop, and the 
silence of the house was again unbroken. He looked 
at the other doors doubtfully, not quite sure whether 
the sweeping had indeed been in here ; then, after a 
second's hesitation, he turned the handle. 

A current of cold air swept furiously towards him ; 
the open window gave a jingling bang, and a cloud of 
w^hirling dust danced before his eyes. 

Through the dust-cloud he saw a woman's figure 
against the light. She w^as leaning on her broom and 



HANDS AND HEAKTS. 217 

gazing from the window, but started round as he 
entered. 

" Can you tell me where to find Panna Vizia ? " 

Kazimir had got thus far in addressing the house- 
maid, when, meeting her eyes as she turned towards 
him, he saw that the housemaid was Panna Vizia her- 
self. 

" Good heavens ! " he broke out, " what are you 
doing here?" 

" Sweeping," said Vizia, coolly, and resuming her 
Avork in haste. 

" Sweeping ! Are there no servants in the house ? 
This must not be ; " and acting on his first impulse of 
indignation, he tried to take the broom from her hands ; 
but she resisted almost angrily. 

" Why must it not be ? " she retorted, with a sort of 
savage sullenness. 

" But what for ? What are you doing to the room ? " 
cried the mystified Kazimir. 

" It is going to be my room now, and I am clearing 
it ; I shall be in nobody's w^ay up here." 

Following her glance around, Kazimir looked about 
him, and shuddered a little at what he saw. 

This was the same room which, years ago, Lucyan 
had occupied, when he was still the younger son of 
the house, and not its master. But the nest, once so 
cosily fitted up, had long stood deserted ; a picture of 



218 BEGGAK MY NEIGHBOUK. 

comfort then, it was now a picture of desolation. Traces 
there still remained of what had been; although a 
lumber-room for years past, there were marks, even 
here, which spoke of Lucyan. The green box till 
stood in the window ; and though the snows of many 
winters had rotted the wood, and the sunshine of 
many summers had blistered the colour from off its 
sides, the ruin was shelter enough for the few shrivelled 
corpses of plants, which stood dead but not buried, 
trembling dismally in the draught. On the wall there 
hung a scrap of white paper, held by one nail only ; 
and as it flapped upwards, Kazimir recognised the face 
of one of the beauties out of Lucyan's gallery. She 
had been the least pretty of them, he remembered. 
Among the rubbish on the floor there lay the torn-off 
yellow cover of an old French novel, one which had 
been in fashion four years ago. There were empty 
packing-cases and discarded chairs, and mounds of 
dust on every side ; and in the middle of it all stood 
Vizia, with her head held high and her hair blown 
rough by the wind, looking as if she were the queen 
of this disorder, and her broom the sceptre with 
which she ruled it. 

" Do you like the room ? " she asked, with a trium- 
phant smile, as if she rather enjoyed Kazimir's evident 
discomfiture. " Do you not think it comfortable ? " 

" Not very," said he, with a shiver ; for the draught 



HANDS AND HEARTS. 219 

was cutting, and perhaps the atmosphere from which 
he had just come had rather enervated him. 

" It will do well enough for me ; I am not a fine 
lady, you know ; why should I be ? " 

" But you are not a servant either," said Kazimir, 
with some heat ; " it cannot be proper for a lady to 
do housemaid's work ? Are there not enough of them 
here?" 

" Plenty ; but I do not choose to ask them ; " and, 
as though expressly to provoke him, Vizia began to 
be very busy with the dust-heaps on the floor. " Do 
you think I am ashamed of sweeping? Did I look 
ashamed when you came in ? " 

" You got red, certainly." 

" Nonsense ! Eed ? I never get red," said Vizia. 
turning scarlet. " And if I did, it certainly was not 
for my broom that I blushed, but only because you 
causfht me at an idle moment, — lookincf out of the 
window, instead of at work." 

" Why will you persist in degrading yourself ? " 

" Why will you persist in calling it degradation ? 
Is work a degradation ? Do you think I would stay 
here, beggar as I am, to live at ease and eat the bread 
which you and Xenia give me, if I could not do some- 
thing in return ? " 

" You are talking folly, Vizia." 

" Am I ? and I should be sensible, I suppose, if I 



220 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

laid down my broom and obeyed you. Shall I sit 
on a sofa and wear kid gloves ? Is that what you 
want me to do ? Look, I never wear kid gloves now ; 
my hands are getting used to it — look ! " she said, 
with a bitter smile, and held her hands towards him, 
roughened and blistered with work. 

o 

" And Xenia allows this ? " cried Kazimir, in horror. 

" Of course ; and why not ? What else am I but 
a servant in this house ? " 

" Stop ! " cried Kazimir — " stop, Vizia ! Will you 
be its mistress ? " 

She stood still, as if struck to stone — immovable 
as a marble statue, and in a moment almost as pale. 
Her wide eyes were fixed on him with a look that 
was like consternation. The bitter smile which be- 
longed to her last words still hovered about her lips, 
though it had no meaning now. Her hands were 
still held out mechanically towards Kazimir. She 
drew them slowly back ; but, quick to see the oppor- 
tunity, he had hold of them already. 

Now only did her expression change. Her smile 
faded; she started back proudly, while the colour 
flamed in her cheek. 

" What do you mean ? I do not understand you." 

" I want you to let me take care of you, Vizia." 

" I can take care of myself," she said, quickly. 

" But I can take care of you better. You shall never 



HANDS AND HEARTS. 221 

work again. You have been working for years past, 
Vizia ; why should you not have your turn of rest ? " 

Vizia stood quite quiet, no longer trying to draw 
her hands from his. . She had not even lowered her 
eyes, but was earnestly and curiously examining 
Kazimir's face. 

" Do you know what you are doing ? " she asked, 
after a second's pause. " You are asking me to marry 
you?" 

" Of course I am asking you to marry me." 

" You mean this seriously ? upon your honour ? " 

" Upon my honour," said Kazimir. 

" Do you love me ? " she asked, in a sort of breath- 
less haste ; and as she asked it she came a step 
nearer, and, still with her hands in his, stood looking 
at him hungrily for the answer. 

Her lips were parted : her breast began to rise and 
fall convulsively. In her eyes there burnt an eager 
light — the sudden upflaring of a hope which she had 
never dared to foster. It made her into a different 
woman. In her shabby brown dress, her sleeves 
rolled up housemaid-fashion, with her reddened hands, 
her rough hair powdered by the flying dust, she stood 
before Kazimir, almost beautiful for once in her life. 

A silence had fallen in the room ; for Kazimir, 
taken aback by the question so suddenly put, could 
find no words on the instant. Love ? Yizia was ask- 



222 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

ing whether he loved her ? And this he had not even 
asked himself. A little time ago and he had loved 
Xenia. Cannot affections be transferred ? Conld not 
the fire which had gone out in one place be kindled 
again in another ? Love her ? Why, he wished her 
well, he esteemed her, he was grateful to her, and he 
loved no other woman — now. Was not that enough ? 
It would have been enough, only that something in 
Kazimir's heart cried out that he had known another 
feeling than this, and that he had called that other 
thing love. He could not give them both the same 
name. 

The silence was not long — only long enough for the 
loose window-frame to give half-a-dozen melancholy 
rattles, and the flapping picture to hide its face, and 
show it again once or twice in quick succession — only 
long enough for Vizia to live through a whole lifetime 
of hope and fear, and exquisite doubt and torturing 
suspense. 

Kazimir was true to the heart's core, and yet he 
would have said the lie. Nothing but the lie could 
still that hungering look on her face. If it was a lie 
to say that he loved her, why, then, the world had 
been all along mistaken about lies. A lie, such as 
this one, must be a good thing ; it could do harm to 
no one, and great good to that woman, who hung on 
his lips for her answer. 



HANDS AND HEARTS. 223 

Kazimir's tongue would have said the lie, but his 
eyes could not; and before he had spoken, she checked 
him. 

" Do not say it ! I know the answer. I would 
not hear a false word from you. You do not love 
me." 

" I will make you happy," said Kazimir, earnestly. 

" You do not love me," said Yizia, again ; and she 
took her hands from his. It was strange how, at the 
very moment that the suspense was broken, the flash 
of light which had beautified her went out. Tlie 
flame, dying in her cheek, left her face of a grey 
paleness ; her eyes lost their fire ; her lips their 
tremulous curve. 

" And if you do not love me, why have you asked 
me this ? " said Yizia, in a tone of sharp suspicion ; 
but before he had time to answer, her mind, travelling 
along the line of thought she had awakened, had 
found an answer for itself. " Oh, it is clear; I might 
have guessed it sooner. You offer to marry me be- 
cause I am poor ; you want to undo the harm which 
others have done. I am a beggar, yes ; but I am not 
quite beggar enough to accept your pity, even when 
you give it by the name of your love." 

" I will not call it love, then," cried Kazimir, 
vehemently ; " call it what you like, but trust yourself 
to me. It is true that my brother has ruined you as 



224 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

he has ruined others ; and it would be no more than 
justice if, to repair the effects of that harm, I were to 
work at your happiness." 

" At the cost of your own," said Vizia, sharply. 

" I understand you ; but you mistake. That dream 
is over." 

Vizia eyed him keenly. 

" It may be true, and I do not wonder. You have 
come straight from her now ; perhaps it is by contrast 
that you find me worthy of regard to-day." 

" You have no right to talk like this," cried Kazi- 
mir, stung to the quick by her tone; "you have no 
right to impute to me motives. My offer is honestly 
meant ; and what right have you, either, to belie your 
own heart? For all your fierce words, you know, 
Vizia, that you love me." 

Vizia covered her face with her hands ; but after a 
moment she looked up resolutely. " Yes," she said, in 
her hardest, most ungracious manner, with no trace of 
womanly softness either in eyes or tone, — " yes, I have 
been foolish, very foolish and weak. I love you, — I 
have loved you for long." 

"Then you cannot refuse me," and Kazimir, with 
new eagerness, tried to take her hands again; but 
Vizia shook her head, and clung once more to her 
broom, as though it were the weapon with which she 
meant to, fight him. 



HANDS AND HEAETS. 225 

" You quite mistake me. It is just because I love 
you that I cannot many you." 

" I never quite understood you, Vizia ; and I cer- 
tainly do not understand you now." 

" Do you not see ? If we were indifferent to each 
other, I might marry you, and be satisfied with the 
humdrum sort of affection which is all you could ever 
give me ; I might have put up then with having merely 
a good friend in my husband ; but this way, this way 
— it is too much of an experiment." 

" Let us try the experiment," said Kazimir. 

" You may be willing to try it, I am not. I never 
was beautiful ; in ten years I shall be a middle- 
aged woman, and you still a young man. You will 
be sought after by the world, by women, and you 
would want pleasures which you would not find at 
home." 

" Never ! " said Kazimir, with a very wise smile. 
" I have outlived all that." For he honestly believed 
that his power of affection was exhausted for ever, and 
that the romance of his first love was never to have a 
sequel. 

" I should torment myself and you," went on Vizia, 
calmly. " I should persecute you with my jealousy. 
No : you are too handsome, too successful, too brilliant 
a man to be my husband." 

"Indeed, Vizia, you underrate yourself, and you 

VOL. III. P 



226 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

overrate me. Such dangers as you talk of are no 
longer dangers for nie." 

Vizia laughed. "How old are you? Not quite 
thirty-one, I think. And your heart is dead, is it? 
And you will never love again ? And the world 
has no more perils for you ? Bah ! Tell that to 
some one else, not to me. You will thank me for 
this some day; you will thank me as soon as your 
mortified vanity has stopped smarting. What would 
be the use of my being a woman if I did not see, 
more clearly than you do, what it is that makes you 
speak now? It is pity that moves you, and grati- 
tude, and perhaps some sudden reaction ; but that 
will not do for me. How can you dare to say that 
your heart is dead, or that you will not love again ? 
Believe me, Kazimir, though I am no prophetess, you 
will find some other woman to love, and to love you ; 
just as surely as that pretty child below-stairs will find 
plenty more men willing to marry her, and each of 
whom she would willingly marry." 

But the problematical woman of the future had no 
power over Kazimir as yet; just as he felt no particu- 
lar taste for the shadowy men amongst whom his late 
love was to make her choice. 

" Do not put me off with words, Vizia," he urged, 
more vehemently. " Your reasons are no reasons ; 
you can give me no ground for refusing me, except 



HANDS AND HEARTS. 227 

that you love me. Why will you speak only of 
your cousin's future and of mine ? What is your 
own to be ? " 

"I know well what it is to be," said Vizia, in a 
whisper ; and Kazimir saw that her eyes were wet 
now, and her lips quivering. It made him think 
that she was yielding. 

''' Have I conquered you, Vizia ? " he said, bending 
towards her ; but this time she gave him no answer, 
— only she shook her head, and taking up his hand 
she kissed it once, impetuously, passionately, then 
quickly passing him, she left the room. 

She was crying before she reached the bottom of 
the stairs ; but her tears did not alter one whit of 
her resolution. 

A nature like hers could not have rested satisfied 
with anything short of the most perfect form of love — 
so perhaps Vizia was right in her decision. But, again, 
had she not allowed her morbid pride to stand between 
her and her one chance of happiness ? 

Perhaps Vizia was wrong. 



228 



CHAPTER XXIY. 

AITZIG'S SCORE. 



" I do believe. 
Though I have found them not, that there may be 
Words which are things, hopes which will not deceive ; 



That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream." 

—Byron. 



As Kazimir closed the door, and stepped out into the 
chill autumn air, he felt that he had likewise closed a 
chapter in his life. 

" I think I could have made her happy ; but she 
would not have it so," he said, with a sigh, which 
he could not himself have explained. Was it for the 
woman who loved him, or for the woman he had loved ? 
or yet for another woman, who had never really lived, 
but whom a strange fancy sometimes showed him lying 
buried in the Tarajow churchyard ? 

He had mounted his horse, and was spurring it down 
the garden-road, as though anxious to put a barrier 
between himself and the past. He was going to return 



aitzig's score. 229 

to his old self, — to what he had been before he had 
dreamed the dream from which he had now awakened. 

Vizia's words had impressed him more than he was 
aware, — they had revived again his confidence in life ; 
and yet he would not believe that they contained a 
prophecy. He told himself that he would be a soldier 
again, and nothing more, with no other interests but 
a soldier's interests. His career should be his one 
care ; his comrades should be his brothers ; his sword 
should be his mistress ; his country should be his 
world. He had spent much time in gathering roses ; 
but they had fallen to pieces in his hands, and wounded 
him with their thorns. Henceforward he would look 
for laurels only. 

It might have been these thoughts which made him 
pass through the garden in heartless indifference to 
the roses that were dying on either side of him. Like 
children who have lost their nurse, they seemed to 
stretch out their seared arms towards him imploringly. 
The few late flowers that still lingered raised their 
frost-bitten faces in mute supplication. Would no one 
take pity on their agony ? The winter was coming ; 
and was there no one to wrap them up in their warm 
straw blankets, and save them from the frost's cruel 
bite ? 

But Kazimir passed them by unheeding. Nor did 
he notice, either, how the grey clouds had lowered, 



230 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUK. 

until they seemed to rest on the earth ; nor how the 
drizzling rain had gradually turned to sleet, and from 
sleet to a small driving snow ; neither did he take 
heed of the wind which piped sharply past him, scat- 
tering the russet leaves before it. 

He rode on quicker, impatient to be gone : there 
was nothing more for him to do here. Yes ; but there 
was something more. Aitzig Majulik must be waiting 
for him now ; he had said he would be back with him 
in an hour, and the hour was past already. Not 
that the promised secret had excited his curiosity : it 
might be but one of the unrealities in the delirium of 
the dying Jew. How was he to guess that the words 
which Aitzig intended to speak would have torn away 
the last shred of that veil which hid from his eyes the 
whole extent of his brother's villany ? 

Would it be better for Kazimir, or worse, if the 
words remained unspoken, and if his trust in human 
nature, which, although shaken, still lived, was allowed 
to survive also in the future ? 

He thought now that his last words to Lucyan had 
been unnecessarily bitter; but when once he should 
know the secret of that Propinacya lease, he might 
well think that they had scarcely been bitter enough. 

Straight into his face was the snow-drift flying, and 
all around him the silent trees took voice. Like the 
wild long notes of a dirge, the wind swept towards 



aitzig's score. 231 

him ; and with it came other sounds, as weird, and 
scarcely more human. 

Dimly at first, then more and more clearly, could 
Kazimir distinguish a mass of dark figures flying to- 
wards him through the snow-drift, — carried along, as 
it seemed, by the breath of the blast alone ; for, fast 
as they flew, the wind flew faster ; and seizing upon 
their long black garments — the scarfs around their 
necks, their floating beards, and even their snaky 
curls — it blew all out straight before them, tearing 
them all one way. 

Eunning as wildly as though the Evil One himself 
were at their heels, beating their breasts and uttering 
unearthly howls, did they fly towards Kazimir. And 
in their midst they bore an open bier ; and upon it, 
scarcely covered, a human form was to be defined. 
A withered hand, half buried in the silver -worked 
folds of the Tales, for a moment met Kazimir's eye. 

Like a picture in a nightmare — like the mere phan- 
tasmagoria of a fevered brain — like a troop of spirits 
born of the driving snow and the doleful wind — they 
passed him. 

And as they sped along, their shrieks and their 
groans carried off before them, the burden of their 
lament ran somewhat like this : — 

" Wai I Wai ! Wai ! 
Let us v:cep and rend our garments; for there is mourn- 



232 BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. 

ing in the Jiousc of Israel. Let us heiuail our brother 
who is passed away. He lived the life of the just, and 
he has died the death of the righteous; and he shall 
sprout again and bloom like the herb of the field, like 
the flowers of the earth; for he has been gathered to his 
forefathers, even to the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, 
and Jacob. Let us weep and re7id our garments, and 
streiu ashes on our heads, for Aitzig Majulik, who has 
gone before its ! 

" Wail Wail Waif' 



THE END. 



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WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS. 19 



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